FCC's "Rip and Replace" Program for Huawei Products is Chronically Behind Schedule

FCC's "Rip and Replace" Program for Huawei Products is Chronically Behind Schedule

FCC's "Rip and Replace" Program for Huawei Products is Chronically Behind Schedule

­The U.S. has tried multiple times to censure, marginalize, and remove any and all traces of Huawei from American networks. At one point, they even tried a “rip and replace” program, buoyed by nearly $2 billion in reimbursement funds. But for various reasons, implementation has been sorely lacking, meaning that Huawei is still very much alive and well in the U.S.

Back in 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice charged the Chinese telecom giant with 10 indictments for IP theft, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice.

“Today we are announcing that we are bringing criminal charges against telecommunications giant Huawei and its associates for nearly two dozen alleged crimes” Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker said at the time.

A year later, the Justice Department charged Huawei with trade secret theft and racketeering, and also in 2020, the Shenzhen juggernaut was forbidden from purchasing foreign chips that use U.S. parts. President Trump had also barred Huawei technology from government networks.

In a last-ditch effort to purge Huawei from all American networks, the feds also instituted a “rip and replace” program, the roots of which stretch back to 2012. The program would reimburse companies – especially small ones – for replacing their Huawei and ZTE gear, which was often the cheapest option.

Just one problem – while the Federal Communications Commission set aside $1.9 billion for the program, by July 2022, the FCC had approved more than 200 applications from 85 different carriers, for a grand total of about $4.6 billion.

And the funds disbursement has been anything but expeditious, with only about 40% of providers costs covered.

So some companies still use Huawei, while others, like Windstream – which was approved for a $47 million reimbursement – removed their Huawei products by January 2020 but has only received “a portion” of its reimbursement funds. Oh, and Windstream filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

And apparently, it’s not just a money issue (though that’s a huge part of it) – the FCC’s reimbursement web portal is anything but user-friendly.

I’d love to say this is an anomaly, and federal programs are usually on-time and efficacious, but I think we all know that’s not the case. And not every company is laying out the fees on good faith.

“Some recipients may not begin actually removing this equipment until additional funding is appropriated,” warned FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.