Huawei fight is a threat to rural internet

Suhauna Hussain and Alice Su, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

In a series of filings to the FCC, the Rural Broadband Coalition argued the ban would force many small rural broadband providers into bankruptcy.

Sagebrush Cellular, a cell service provider in northeast Montana, said that when it considered options for 4G deployment, Lucent equipment was double the price of Huawei. Ericsson technology was almost four times the cost of Huawei equipment.

One unnamed prominent alternative vendor didn't even give Sagebrush a price quote, according to the filing, stating only that a small company would be "unable to afford them."

Sagebrush moved forward with Huawei, spending more than $25 million on its equipment.

It would cost Sagebrush an estimated $57 million to replace its network, the company said in the filing.

Its network size would shrink by two-thirds, losing coverage in many areas where Sagebrush is the only wireless carrier, including 173 miles of the U.S.-Canadian border.

The FCC proposal is still pending, as it awaits guidance from the Trump administration on how it should proceed.

Nettles is waiting to see what will happen with the rule-making process, but he expects he will have to find a new vendor to replace current network infrastructure. The question is: Where will he get the capital to make the change?


Pine Belt relies on federal funds for capital costs. He's hoping the government will provide assistance. Otherwise, he's not sure what he will do: Pine Belt could fold as a result.

"I'm really counting on the system to do right by all of us," he said.

(Hussain reported from Los Angeles, Su from Beijing.)

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