The Commerce Department announced Monday a 90-day window in which companies relying on Huawei equipment to keep operating. Rural carriers are unsure what will happen after that. "Rural broadband carriers could be forced to rip out and replace entire networks because they wouldn’t be able to import spare parts or software updates to maintain infrastructure," Hussain and Su report.
What does that look like for small carriers? John Nettles, president of Alabama carrier Pine Belt Communications, says replacing his company's network "would cost $5 million to $10 million. And downtime from installing new equipment would probably cause Pine Belt to forgo $1 million to $3 million in roaming fees, according to Federal Communications Commission filings," Hussain and Su report. Pine Belt has about 40 employees and around 60 cell sites, and provides 4G coverage in farming areas overlooked by big providers.
"I’m aware of the need to have secure networks. We’re not trying to suggest security is not an important consideration," Nettles told Hussain and Su. "But how do you balance it with providing service to underserved markets — which is mainly where we operate?"