47 U.S. Code § 1603 - Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program

(a) In general

The Commission shall establish a reimbursement program, to be known as the “Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program”, to make reimbursements to providers of advanced communications service to replace covered communications equipment or services.

(b) EligibilityThe Commission may not make a reimbursement under the Program to a provider of advanced communications service unless the provider—
(1)
has 2,000,000 or fewer customers; and
(2)
makes all of the certifications required by subsection (d)(4).
(c) Use of funds
(1) In generalA recipient of a reimbursement under the Program shall use reimbursement funds solely for the purposes of—
(A) permanently removing covered communications equipment or services purchased, rented, leased, or otherwise obtained before—
(i)
in the case of any covered communications equipment or services that are on the initial list published under section 1601(a) of this title, August 14, 2018; or
(ii)
in the case of any covered communications equipment or services that are not on the initial list published under section 1601(a) of this title, the date that is 60 days after the date on which the Commission places such equipment or services on the list required by such section;
(C)
disposing of the covered communications equipment or services removed as described in subparagraph (A) in accordance with the requirements under subsection (d)(7).
(2) LimitationsA recipient of a reimbursement under the Program may not—
(A) use reimbursement funds to remove, replace, or dispose of any covered communications equipment or service purchased, rented, leased, or otherwise obtained on or after—
(i)
in the case of any covered communications equipment or service that is on the initial list published under section 1601(a) of this title, August 14, 2018; or
(ii)
in the case of any covered communications equipment or service that is not on the initial list published under section 1601(a) of this title, the date that is 60 days after the date on which the Commission places such equipment or service on the list required by such section; or
(B)
purchase, rent, lease, or otherwise obtain any covered communications equipment or service, using reimbursement funds or any other funds (including funds derived from private sources).
(d) Implementation
(1) Suggested replacements
(A) Development of list

The Commission shall develop a list of suggested replacements of both physical and virtual communications equipment, application and management software, and services or categories of replacements of both physical and virtual communications equipment, application and management software and services.

(B) Neutrality

The list developed under subparagraph (A) shall be technology neutral and may not advantage the use of reimbursement funds for capital expenditures over operational expenditures, to the extent that the Commission determines that communications services can serve as an adequate substitute for the installation of communications equipment.

(2) Application process
(A) In general

The Commission shall develop an application process and related forms and materials for the Program.

(B) Cost estimate
(i) Initial estimate

The Commission shall require an applicant to provide an initial reimbursement cost estimate at the time of application, with supporting materials substantiating the costs.

(ii) UpdatesDuring and after the application review process, the Commission may require an applicant to—
(I)
update the initial reimbursement cost estimate submitted under clause (i); and
(II)
submit additional supporting materials substantiating an updated cost estimate submitted under subclause (I).
(C) Mitigation of burden

In developing the application process under this paragraph, the Commission shall take reasonable steps to mitigate the administrative burdens and costs associated with the application process, while taking into account the need to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse in the Program.

(3) Application review process
(A) Deadline
(i) In general

Except as provided in clause (ii) and subparagraph (B), the Commission shall approve or deny an application for a reimbursement under the Program not later than 90 days after the date of the submission of the application.

(ii) Additional time needed by Commission

If the Commission determines that, because an excessive number of applications have been filed at one time, the Commission needs additional time for employees of the Commission to process the applications, the Commission may extend the deadline described in clause (i) for not more than 45 days.

(B) Opportunity for applicant to cure deficiency

If the Commission determines that an application is materially deficient (including by lacking an adequate cost estimate or adequate supporting materials), the Commission shall provide the applicant a 15-day period to cure the defect before denying the application. If such period would extend beyond the deadline under subparagraph (A) for approving or denying the application, such deadline shall be extended through the end of such period.

(C) Effect of denial

Denial of an application for a reimbursement under the Program shall not preclude the applicant from resubmitting the application or submitting a new application for a reimbursement under the Program at a later date.

(4) CertificationsAn applicant for a reimbursement under the Program shall, in the application of the applicant, certify to the Commission that—
(A) as of the date of the submission of the application, the applicant—
(i) has developed a plan for—
(I)
the permanent removal and replacement of any covered communications equipment or services that are in the communications network of the applicant as of such date; and
(II)
the disposal of the equipment or services removed as described in subclause (I) in accordance with the requirements under paragraph (7); and
(ii)
has developed a specific timeline (subject to paragraph (6)) for the permanent removal, replacement, and disposal of the covered communications equipment or services identified under clause (i), which timeline shall be submitted to the Commission as part of the application; and
(B) beginning on the date of the approval of the application, the applicant—
(i)
will not purchase, rent, lease, or otherwise obtain covered communications equipment or services, using reimbursement funds or any other funds (including funds derived from private sources); and
(ii)
in developing and tailoring the risk management practices of the applicant, will consult and consider the standards, guidelines, and best practices set forth in the cybersecurity framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
(5) Distribution of reimbursement funds
(A) In general

The Commission shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that reimbursement funds are distributed equitably among all applicants for reimbursements under the Program according to the needs of the applicants, as identified by the applications of the applicants.

(B) NotificationIf, at any time during the implementation of the Program, the Commission determines that $1,000,000,000 will not be sufficient to fully fund all approved applications for reimbursements under the Program, the Commission shall immediately notify—
(i)
the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives; and
(ii)
the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate.
(6) Removal, replacement, and disposal term
(A) Deadline

Except as provided in subparagraphs (B) and (C), the permanent removal, replacement, and disposal of any covered communications equipment or services identified under paragraph (4)(A)(i) shall be completed not later than 1 year after the date on which the Commission distributes reimbursement funds to the recipient.

(B) General extensionThe Commission may grant an extension of the deadline described in subparagraph (A) for 6 months to all recipients of reimbursements under the Program if the Commission
(i)
finds that the supply of replacement communications equipment or services needed by the recipients to achieve the purposes of the Program is inadequate to meet the needs of the recipients; and
(ii) provides notice and a detailed justification for granting the extension to—
(I)
the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives; and
(II)
the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate.
(C) Individual extension
(i) Petition

A recipient of a reimbursement under the Program may petition the Commission for an extension for such recipient of the deadline described in subparagraph (A) or, if the Commission has granted an extension of such deadline under subparagraph (B), such deadline as so extended.

(ii) Grant

The Commission may grant a petition filed under clause (i) by extending, for the recipient that filed the petition, the deadline described in subparagraph (A) or, if the Commission has granted an extension of such deadline under subparagraph (B), such deadline as so extended, for a period of not more than 6 months if the Commission finds that, due to no fault of such recipient, such recipient is unable to complete the permanent removal, replacement, and disposal described in subparagraph (A).

(7) Disposal of covered communications equipment or services

The Commission shall include in the regulations promulgated under subsection (g) requirements for the disposal by a recipient of a reimbursement under the Program of covered communications equipment or services identified under paragraph (4)(A)(i) and removed from the network of the recipient in order to prevent such equipment or services from being used in the networks of providers of advanced communications service.

(8) Status updates
(A) In general

Not less frequently than once every 90 days beginning on the date on which the Commission approves an application for a reimbursement under the Program, the recipient of the reimbursement shall submit to the Commission a status update on the work of the recipient to permanently remove, replace, and dispose of the covered communications equipment or services identified under paragraph (4)(A)(i).

(B) Public posting

Not earlier than 30 days after the date on which the Commission receives a status update under subparagraph (A), the Commission shall make such status update public on the website of the Commission.

(C) Reports to CongressNot less frequently than once every 180 days beginning on the date on which the Commission first makes funds available to a recipient of a reimbursement under the Program, the Commission shall prepare and submit to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report on—
(i)
the implementation of the Program by the Commission; and
(ii)
the work by recipients of reimbursements under the Program to permanently remove, replace, and dispose of covered communications equipment or services identified under paragraph (4)(A)(i).
(e) Measures to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse
(1) In general

The Commission shall take all necessary steps to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse with respect to the Program.

(2) Spending reports

The Commission shall require recipients of reimbursements under the Program to submit to the Commission on a regular basis reports regarding how reimbursement funds have been spent, including detailed accounting of the covered communications equipment or services permanently removed and disposed of, and the replacement equipment or services purchased, rented, leased, or otherwise obtained, using reimbursement funds.

(3) Audits, reviews, and field investigationsThe Commission shall conduct—
(A)
regular audits and reviews of reimbursements under the Program to confirm that recipients of such reimbursements are complying with this chapter; and
(B)
random field investigations to ensure that recipients of reimbursements under the Program are performing the work such recipients are required to perform under the commitments made in the applications of such recipients for reimbursements under the Program, including the permanent removal, replacement, and disposal of the covered communications equipment or services identified under subsection (d)(4)(A)(i).
(4) Final certification
(A) In generalThe Commission shall require a recipient of a reimbursement under the Program to submit to the Commission, in a form and at an appropriate time to be determined by the Commission, a certification stating that the recipient—
(i)
has fully complied with (or is in the process of complying with) all terms and conditions of the Program;
(ii)
has fully complied with (or is in the process of complying with) the commitments made in the application of the recipient for the reimbursement;
(iii)
has permanently removed from the communications network of the recipient, replaced, and disposed of (or is in the process of permanently removing, replacing, and disposing of) all covered communications equipment or services that were in the network of the recipient as of the date of the submission of the application of the recipient for the reimbursement; and
(iv)
has fully complied with (or is in the process of complying with) the timeline submitted by the recipient under subparagraph (A)(ii) of paragraph (4) of subsection (d) and the other requirements of such paragraph.
(B) Updated certification

If, at the time when a recipient of a reimbursement under the Program submits a certification under subparagraph (A), the recipient has not fully complied as described in clause (i), (ii), or (iv) of such subparagraph or has not completed the permanent removal, replacement, and disposal described in clause (iii) of such subparagraph, the Commission shall require the recipient to file an updated certification when the recipient has fully complied as described in such clause (i), (ii), or (iv) or completed such permanent removal, replacement, and disposal.

(f) Effect of removal of equipment or service from list
(1) In generalIf, after the date on which a recipient of a reimbursement under the Program submits the application for the reimbursement, any covered communications equipment or service that is in the network of the recipient as of such date is removed from the list published under section 1601(a) of this title, the recipient may—
(A)
return to the Commission any reimbursement funds received for the removal, replacement, and disposal of such equipment or service and be released from any requirement under this section to remove, replace, or dispose of such equipment or service; or
(B)
retain any reimbursement funds received for the removal, replacement, and disposal of such equipment or service and remain subject to the requirements of this section to remove, replace, and dispose of such equipment or service as if such equipment or service continued to be on the list published under section 1601(a) of this title.
(2) Assurances

In the case of an assurance relating to the removal, replacement, or disposal of any equipment or service with respect to which the recipient returns to the Commission reimbursement funds under paragraph (1)(A), such assurance may be satisfied by making an assurance that such funds have been returned.

(g) Rulemaking
(1) Commencement

Not later than 90 days after March 12, 2020, the Commission shall commence a rulemaking to implement this section.

(2) Completion

The Commission shall complete the rulemaking under paragraph (1) not later than 1 year after March 12, 2020.

(h) Rule of construction regarding timing of reimbursement

Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Commission from making a reimbursement under the Program to a provider of advanced communications service before the provider incurs the cost of the permanent removal, replacement, and disposal of the covered communications equipment or service for which the application of the provider has been approved under this section.

(i) Education effortsThe Commission shall engage in education efforts with providers of advanced communications service to—
(1)
encourage such providers to participate in the Program; and
(2)
assist such providers in submitting applications for the Program.
(j) Separate from Federal universal service programs

The Program shall be separate from any Federal universal service program established under section 254 of this title.