The Federal Communications Commission said Nov. 19 that it plans to consider a report and order at its Dec. 10 open meeting that would require some telecommunications service providers to remove and replace equipment in their networks that pose “unacceptable risks” to U.S. national security.

The FCC in 2019 designated China-based equipment providers Huawei and ZTE as posing national security threats to the integrity of U.S. communications networks and related supply chains.

The FCC’s proposed draft order says it would cover “eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs)” – meaning those that are eligible to receive support under Universal Service Fund programs administrated by the FCC.

The proposed order would establish a Secure and Trusted Communications Network Reimbursement Program to fund carriers’ cost of removing objectionable equipment from their networks. Funding for the program is subject to appropriations by Congress. The order also would prohibit ETCs from using FCC-directed subsidies to add any objectionable equipment to their networks.

Finally, the proposed order would require all providers of advanced communications services – with that definition generally including all broadband service providers – to report on whether their networks employ objectionable equipment that was acquired after August 2018.

“The Commission has already taken critical steps to protect communications network supply chains, including prohibiting the use of Universal Service Fund support to purchase any equipment or services from companies posing a threat to national security and later designating two foreign companies as national security threats,” the FCC said. “Today, we take another major step towards securing our communications networks by adopting rules to implement the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019.”

The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act was signed into law by President Trump in March.

The FCC’s draft order issued this week notes the commission believes at least $1.6 billion of funding will be needed for the program.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.