The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says it needs an additional $3 billion to fund the removal of telecoms equipment made by Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE.
Congress had earmarked around $1.9 billion for the Supply Chain Reimbursement Program, which provides federal funds to operators who are reliant on such kit, but the FCC says this isn’t enough.
In a letter to Senator Maria Cantwell, head of the committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel warned that unless more money was pumped into the scheme, affected telcos would only be reimbursed for two-fifths of the cost.
Chinese vendors have largely been excluded from the US market due to ongoing concerns about security, with major carriers opting to use radio equipment from Ericsson, Nokia, and others.
However, several smaller providers still use kit from the likes of Huawei and ZTE because it is relatively inexpensive. The Rural Wireless Association, which represents operators with fewer than 100,000 customers, estimates a quarter of its members have Chinese-made kit in their networks.
The US government has imposed a range of sanctions on Huawei, ultimately leading to the current plan to remove and replace equipment it considers to be a security risk.
Huawei has persistently denied any allegations of wrongdoing, while Washington has yet to provide any evidence to support its claims. The Chinese government considers the US’s actions to be politically motivated.
Separately, Huawei is also banned from dealing with US suppliers without a licence, severely limiting its access to key technologies such as chips and the Android operating system. Recently, there were moves to make the licence system even more restrictive.
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