WASHINGTON, D.C.—Womble Bond Dickinson attorney Carri Bennet spoke to the New York Times about a draft FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that could have a detrimental impact on rural broadband carriers and their customers.

The proposal 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.”

However, as the New York Times points out, such a proposal could block Chinese electronics giant Huawei from supplying equipment to telecom carriers receiving USF funds, which are subsidies to promote universal access to telecom services throughout the United States. Many carriers receiving USF monies serve customers in rural areas.

Bennet’s client, the Rural Wireless Association, opposes the proposal, saying it may unintentionally harm rural broadband providers and will fall short in ensuring the security of America’s communications networks.

Bennet, who serves as RWA’s General Counsel, said many small, rural telecom companies rely on Huawei equipment. Rather than blocking certain manufacturers, she tells the New York Times that federal official should create an industry-wide system of security standards and testing that apply to all suppliers, not just USF recipients.

“These companies who are reliant on this support, they don’t have the funds to overhaul their whole network,” Bennet tells the New York Times. “Public safety, getting 911 services, broadband — it all just starts falling apart.”

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 “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.