There are two main points to this article, but I can sum it up in one paragraph for the impatient reader. After seven years of working on broadband issues, I’ve uncovered two main reasons we don’t have a real Dig Once Policy. The first is that a core group of Democrats, who are all linked to Sharon Shewmake, a long-time proponent of 5G and specifically Verizon, are also all connected to the same local big telecom donor. The other reason is that big telecom reps. have confirmed to me that when it comes to meeting with our officials, they basically enjoy an open-door policy and meet regularly, while the public has basically no say.
I should note that the Republicans are just as corrupt in this regard, but the “corporate Democrats” especially annoy progressives because they pretend to care and then, time and again, stab us in the back. For example, I was on an e-mail thread recently with a group of professionals who had spent months working on a Broadband Strategy Document and Dig Once Policy. We were told by PUD Commissioner and Broadband Chair Christine Grant that she was going to tank a Dig Once Policy after all. Sure, she talks about it in public now, but this is what’s going on in the background.
We should have seen it coming when, earlier this year, the PUD hired a new general manager. He specifically told me he doesn’t believe in Dig Once, or exercising PUD Retail Authority (e.g. the PUD being our service provider), or really competing with the big telecoms at all. He also told me that the few low-income connections the Port/PUD are providing won’t come with any guarantees of quality or price.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Grant has been holding invite-only, closed door meetings prior to the upcoming Broadband Infrastructure Projects Open House on June 14th. I made a stink about this, but Grant is still meeting with her adherents. She closed her “No Dig Once” email with, “I hope to see some of you there” meaning …her hand-selected favorites?
She is also trying to censor information going to the Kitsap PUD representative who is working with us regarding a Local Utility District (LUD). Briefly, a LUD is a version of a community-run internet provider, as opposed to a simpler, more efficient PUD-as-provider model. Grant originally requested that all questions submitted to the Kitsap rep. be passed through her for consideration and approval. (Public works director Eric Johnston also employs this tactic when trying to protect special interests in the Broadband Advisory Group (BAG).) After I made a stink about how inappropriate that was, the public was magically allowed to speak at the meeting as they always should have been. I paid for this with the Corporate Democratic side of the party, as they immediately started spreading rumors about me.
When pushed about why our elected officials can’t give us even the most basic policies, Whatcom Democrats head, Andrew Reding, dodged and did what they usually do for Shewmake’s candidates: He pretended that holding them accountable was some form of abuse, saying, “We won’t be bullied into Dig Once.” Bullied?! Into …efficiency? All Dig Once really says is that whenever we excavate we agree to do as much work as possible to prepare for the future. The funny thing is, Reding helped us write the most recent Broadband Strategy Document, and personally agrees with Dig Once. In fact, the idea is overwhelmingly popular with the public. So, what they’re really saying is that if the Corporate Democratic Royalty doesn’t personally like someone they will screw over the other 250 thousand people in Whatcom County just to prove a point, no matter how reasonable the idea is.
Once I realized there were common responses coming from the neo-liberals, I did a bit of digging into their donations and found that the Shewmake Corporate Dems share a common telecom donor. This donor is also Mayor Fleetwood’s good friend, and has written me threatening e-mails about 5G and wireless. This donor claims to be an environmentalist who doesn’t invest in fossil fuels, but seems to back many greenwashing projects that are as bad, like NOx producing Hydrogen in Natural Gas. and 5G, which is awful for the environment creating unnecessary increased energy usage and tech waste. You simply can’t be an environmentalist and support 5G.
It turns out, this person donates heavily to the Shewmake crew, especially Alex Ramel. But almost everyone else is taking money as well: Sidhu, Shewmake, Grant, Ramel, most of the County Council, and most of the City Council. Is it done out of citizenship and generosity, or to buy votes for his investors? Don’t take my word for it, look it up here: donations.
Dig Once would directly affect this investor and his big-wireless pals by creating actual competition. Dig Once would give people direct access to fiber, allowing them to create networks of their own with better performance at lower prices. But, if you’re invested in big-wireless you don’t want public broadband. Which could explain why the Shewmake Corporate Dems keep pushing technologies that are favorable to this investor and big telecom—but not the public they supposedly serve. It would also explain our elected officials reluctance to complete a fiber network. How long can they keep telling us that we’re still 15 years away? Forever? What if we replace them?
The Shewmake Riveters are often pushed as the only solution for women in Whatcom County. So I’ve asked many strong, progressive, Bernie/Warren-supporting women if they felt they were represented by the Shewmake Riveters. They all resoundingly said NO. These women are all full-time workers and small business owners. They want representation from pro-women candidates, and they want the infrastructure they need to compete. In short, they can take care of themselves and just need and want equity, equality, and opportunity. They don’t see that in either the Republicans or Corporate Democrats. They say that, “while the Shewmake Crew seems strong on some social issues they fail them in every other way and put corporations ahead of people. Especially when it comes to their daily lives and expenses.” Just look at how unaffordable daily life has become. They are also annoyed by the complete lack of accountability and transparency they see from the establishment, as their own lives require accountability and transparency everyday.
In the end, neither Republicans nor Democrats helped us during the pandemic. Many of us can see now that if voting actually mattered they’d make it illegal. And most of us feel unrepresented, except maybe those big telecom donors of Shewmake’s crew. So wouldn’t we have to be out of our minds to vote for almost anyone who was in office during the pandemic?
Real progressives agree that this is why we don’t have a Dig Once policy; because party donors don’t want it, and the Shewmake Cartel is happy to take their money and pretend to care about you. They don’t.
We need progress.