WASHINGTON, D.C.—Womble Bond Dickinson attorney Carri Bennet spoke to both Communications Daily and the National Journal about a draft FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that could harm rural broadband carriers and customers. These interviews follow an interview Bennet gave on the topic with the New York Times.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would prohibit the use of Universal Service Fund support “to purchase equipment or services from any communications equipment or service providers identified as posing a national security risk to communications networks or the communications supply chain.”

Bennet’s client the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) believes that the proposal could drive Chinese equipment makers popular with rural carriers out of the market. Also, RWA members say the proposal doesn’t really ensure the safety of the country’s broadband supply chain.

“If [the FCC is] trying to really resolve the cybersecurity issues and the threat to national security, they’re in a much better position by gathering this kind of information than they were by simply limiting it to the USF-funded parts of the network,” Bennet, who serves as RWA General Counsel, tells Communications Daily.

She told the National Journal, “I don’t think you can find a piece of network—any network, even AT&T’s, Verizon’s—that has not got components that are manufactured in China.” This is particularly true for smaller rural carriers, she said, and these companies also depend on Universal Service Fund support.

Bennet and Womble Bond Dickinson attorney Erin Fitzgerald recently filed an ex parte letter with the FCC responding to the draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and outlining RWA’s suggestions on securing the communications supply chain. Thanks to that ex parte filing, the FCC has expanded its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to also include non USF-funded equipment or services produced or provided by those companies that might pose the same or similar national security threats to the nation’s communications networks.

Click here to read “FCC’s Foray Into National Security Provokes Apprehension” in the National Journal, and click here to read “National Security NPRM Casts Wide Net; Concerns Mount on Any Chinese Equipment Maker Exit” in Communications Daily (subscription required for both). Also, Click here to read “Huawei, Failing to Crack U.S. Market, Signals a Change in Tactics” in the New York Times.

Carri Bennet has more than three decades of experience representing wireline, wireless and broadband communications providers, as well as commercial and noncommercial broadcasters, in regulatory compliance matters. She has a particular focus on advocating for small rural carriers, including serving as General Counsel to the Rural Wireless Association. Bennet represents telecom industry clients before the FCC, state regulatory agencies, the courts, and Congress.