Rural Carriers Fear They Can't 'Keep Americans Connected'

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Rural carriers fear they can't "keep Americans connected" in accordance with an eponymous pledge the FCC laid out earlier this month. That's according to the Competitive Carriers Association, one of the most influential consortiums in the segment.

In an official statement given Wednesday, CCA CEO Steve Berry suggested rural ISPs are essentially backed into a corner.

On one hand, there's the FCC's Keep Americans Connected initiative; but e.g. at the same time, the government still expects the wireless industry to promptly replace Huawei telecom gear.

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Berry already called for federal funding meant to help rural carriers do away with Huawei infrastructure in early March. The appeal was given during his Senate testimony on 5G, and the industry veteran now doubled down on that stance.

Both Capitol Hill and the Trump administration have been pressuring carriers to drop Huawei-made 5G tech for over a year now. The government remains insistent the effort is solely related to national security concerns. Huawei, on the other hand, claims it's a victim of Washington's trade war with China.

The unexpected coronavirus crisis further complicates this already hairy situation – especially after the FCC outlined the Keep Americans Connected pledge.

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Berry hence argues the wireless sector now needs "a lot more understanding and cooperation from our regulatory agencies". The federal government has yet to signal how feasible that scenario truly is.

Can rural carriers ditch Huawei while "keeping Americans connected"?

Officially, the CCA head claims the effort to replace Huawei infrastructure hasn't lost priority amid the pandemic. Yet the implication of his newest remarks is clear – Huawei is hardly a bigger immediate risk to the U.S. than the COVID-19 outbreak.

Some 200 companies already joined the FCC's Keep Americans Connected pledge. The effort's envisioned to ensure national network stability in these distressing times. Major American telecoms like Verizon are, naturally, much better-equipped to participate in the endeavor than rural carriers.

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The initiative rests on three pillars, the most important of which is a promise no citizen or small business will have their Internet service terminated over late fees so long as the U.S. is fighting the COVID-19 crisis.

In a similar vein, participating companies also pledged to waive late fees during this state of emergency. Existing Wi-Fi hotspots owned by the signees will aslo be available to everyone, as per the final stipulation.

Regardless of how quickly Huawei tech disappears from rural Internet infrastructure, the company's stateside prospects remain grim. That's hardly surprising given Huawei's numerous scandals in the U.S. over the last several decades.

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