Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Jessica Rosenworcel (pictured) stressed the need for Congress to approve more than $3 billion in additional government funding to help US operators remove equipment made by Huawei and ZTE from their networks.

Rosenworcel stated in a letter to Senator Maria Cantwell, who heads the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, that nearly 40 per cent of participants in the rip and replace programme reported they cannot complete the gear swap out without additional government funding.

Congress passed a law in 2019 requiring operators serving less than 10 million customers that had received government subsidies to remove network equipment deemed to pose a national security risk.

It allocated $1.9 billion for the FCC Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Programme, but the agency has repeatedly stated the estimated cost to replace the equipment is around $4.98 billion.

The law requires the FCC to first allocate funds to operators that have two million or less customers. Rosenworcel explained in her letter those applicants will receive prorated support of “only 39.5 per cent of reasonable costs”.

The letter stated, “in many rural and remote areas of the country where they may be the only mobile broadband service provider, a shutdown of all or part of their networks could eliminate the only provider in some regions”.

In addition, the inability for service providers “to fully remove, replace, and dispose of its covered equipment and services would raise national security concerns by leaving insecure equipment and services in our networks,” according to the letter.

The administration of President Joe Biden sought $3.1 billion in additional funding in October 2023, but Congress hasn’t approved it.

Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Tim Donovan urged Congress to act upon the funding request for the programme.

“The urgency of the Chairwoman’s letter highlights the dire necessity to secure our nation’s communications infrastructure and prevent network failures and service reductions impacting tens of millions of consumers,” he stated.