Topic: Technology (86)

A Resolution to Make Sure Nothing Gets Done

Broadband-Washing: Greenwashing the Internet

Broadband-Washing: Greenwashing the Internet

By

Recently, Whatcom County Council member Kaylee Galloway presented a Resolution on broadband policy to the council for approval. It’s worthless.

Several years ago when I spoke with new County Council member Kaylee Galloway, I got the sense she was about to get sucked into Whatcom County’s political machine. While she had seen the truth about the need for public fiber-optics from me, and the book “Fiber” by Susan Crawford, and the cities of Anacortes, Mount Vernon, Hillsboro, OR, Chattanooga, TN and many other sources, I knew the corporate interests in both the Democrat and Republican parties were about to wine and dine her. They would tell her sob stories about how they were “stake holders” and just couldn’t afford to do the right thing with their investment dollars. They would lie to her about other technologies, telling her they were as good as fiber, knowing full well that they were not. 

I had hoped Kaylee was smart enough to see through the lies. After all, every network that works well, has lots of fiber in it, and the best of them, from both a cost and reliability standpoint, are public. However, I know how the corporate wing of her party works, so I assumed that after her wining and dining she would be swayed, and give us some virtually worthless, half-assed solution…and make sure big telecom got a seat at the table.  

As expected, Galloway responded just like our “savior” PUD Commissioner Christine Grant did when she hired Chris Heimgartner, a pro-big-telecom guy as our PUD manager, and folded to special interests to protect big telecom. Remember, the PUD did a nationwide search and could have hired literally anyone, but they hired a guy who refers you to big telecom if you ask a question, and prioritizes big oil in everything he does. You may pay his salary, but he doesn’t work for you, he works for them, and Christine Grant made sure he would.

How do I know? The pretend-progressives in the Democratic Party contacted me to “check out Kaylee’s broadband resolution.” I figured, at best, it would be similar to the COB’s big-telecom-filled Broadband Advisory Group. Sadly, the reality in the county is even worse. 

A lot of the language in this Resolution is ripped off from the TAGNW document I wrote about here. The TAGNW document is the one Andrew Redding, Jamie Douglass, and special interests killed at about the same time they put internal pressure on TAGNW to fire Director Michael Gan for doing his job. In this Resolution presented to the County Council, all the teeth were taken out of the original document and any actual commitments were carefully avoided.

 I’ll explain each promise (?), point by point. Please use the “resolution” as a reference. You can jump over all the “WHEREAS-s” and go to, “NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED”:

 1. We resolve to notify interested parties that work is being done. This is known as an “inform only” policy. It doesn’t require any of the utilities to do anything useful, and doesn’t guarantee the installation of conduit or fiber. So it’s worthless. This policy was inspired by the city of Pasco’s worthless “inform only” policy. It is the greenwashing of the broadband world. It’s just here to make us think progress is taking place. It’s not. 

2. We resolve to spend lots of money developing a “notification system” to aid with useless point  Number 1, so big telecom can ignore these “opportunities to coordinate construction activities,” just as they always have.

3. The wording here says they will consider internet a needed utility if they feel like it. They will, however, continue to base connectivity on the virtually worthless federal and state standards, and use inaccurate testing (as I’ve written about before). Bottom line, this means if you can get some connectivity from a potato you’ve stuck two wires in, and big telecom says it’s adequate with their inaccurate testers, no action will be necessary. So, Number 3 is also a commitment to do either next to nothing, or in most cases, nothing at all. It is the intentional illusion of progress. Just like the way they’re approaching climate change.

4. They will use state Equity, Diversity, Accessibility and Inclusion (EDI) funds for broadband, but again the funding is based on inaccurate testing and considers non-fiber broadband to be equivalent to fiber in most cases. In short, most of the money goes to big telecom, (who overcharge for their services). Instead, money that could have been spent building real infrastructure disappears into the pockets of special interests and no robust infrastructure is built. Big telecom dictates how everything happens and we spend a bunch of money on next to nothing. 

5. This is the most laughable part. The county says it will partner with the Port and PUD, who have intentionally missed opportunities to build out robust public fiber. They again only commit to notification of work, aka, the inform-only policy, and generally agree that it is a good idea to talk to each other. Not take real action, just talk. Maybe. The PUD manager’s letter included in these documents says basically that he just thinks it’s a good idea, probably.

6. This section commits the county to working with established entities, some of them big telecom, to provide Third World Level access to the internet for those Whatcom County residents who aren’t connected. Maybe. No commitments to build a robust public fiber network are made. Hell, they don’t even commit to supporting small community fiber projects, which they could easily do. 

In the end, this document is broadband-washing—the broadband equivalent of greenwashing. Kaylee Galloway is a fake progressive, like all the establishment Democrats have proven themselves to be. Granted, I’m sure the Republicans twisted their arms to get to this point, but when are we going to get anyone in government who has a spine and will push back?!

A county-wide public fiber network was originally conceived of at less than $100 million dollars. A Dig Once Policy reduces the cost of fiber installation by 90%. Fiber and conduit are the least expensive parts of the process with excavation being the grand majority of the cost. Fiber then pays for its own installation cost via leasing and many other economic opportunities like attracting next-generation businesses. So, how did we end up with a resolution that doesn’t require at least the installation of some conduit and fiber when we’re already doing an excavation?? We need a Dig Once Policy with real commitments. Not whatever bullshit this is. This document is shameful.

I wonder where Whatcom County/Bellingham would be if our elected officials spent half as much time protecting our interests as they do their big donors in special interest groups? Care to give us an answer Kaylee? Nevermind, I know you won’t. Like Christine Grant, now you only talk to people approved of by the party, not the citizens you’re taking advantage of.

Oh yeah, one final laughable thing. The documents talk about creating another “advisory panel.” By this point we all know that panel will be filled with big telecom reps and their sympathizers, right? Just like the COB did with their big-telecom-filled Broadband Advisory Group. So get ready for CBAG, or the Countywide Big-telecom Ass-kissing Group. You’ll recognize it because we’ve seen it before.

Boy, do I hate being right all the time.

About Jon Humphrey

Citizen Journalist • Bellingham • Member since May 23, 2017

Comments by Readers

Brian McNitt

Apr 09, 2024

Meanwhile, The FCC just quadrupled the download speed required to market internet as ‘broadband’. Says Engaget, “ISPs now have to offer 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up to slap the coveted label on their services.” So where does Bellingham and Whatcom County stand?

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Richard Verbree

Apr 09, 2024

Have you heard about tmobile 5g gateway?, it’s $50/month unlimited data. I have one, it works great. It handles 6-7 devises with ease…..and if you don’t have cell service there is starlink. It is more $ but works anywhere you can see the sky…...so…...public fiber is not as important as it was a few years ago

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Jon Humphrey

Apr 10, 2024

Both of these comments are nonsensical and ignore real data.
Comment #1 - Ignores the need for upload speeds to support modern video conferencing. It’s not just about download speeds. It also ignroes the fact that FCC, and WA state, speed tests are based on inaccurate browser based tests that are virtually worthless. Stated ISP speeds are always “up to” meaning the real performance in Whatcom County, and everywhere, is far below the “FCC standard.” That’s why we need load testing. Here is a link to the RRUL documentation for load testing.
https://www.bufferbloat.net/projects/bloat/wiki/RRUL_Spec/
Comment #2 - All services require lots of fiber to work correctly. Even Elon Musk is out there talking about how he needs more fiber on the ground for Starlink to work correctly. None of these services are equivalent to fiber. You are comparing apples and oranges. Also, we’ve load tested T-Mobile sevices, they suck. High latency, lots of drop outs, speeds of 2 Mbits. In Hillsboro, OR $50 a month gets you 1,000 Mbit download and upload speeds with fiber to the home on their public network. Trying to build anynetwork without fiber is like saying you can build a high speed road without asphalt.
Both comments ignore the fact that we are way behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to broadband. 1,000 Mbit (aka Gigiabit) fiber to the home is $25/month in South Korea and Japan, for example. We pay the highest prices, for the worst service, in the developed world in the US. Whatcom County is in awful shape compared to places with public fiber like Mount Venron, Anacortes, Hillsboro, OR, Chatanooga, TN and more. Our infrastructure is made out of silly putty.

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Richard Verbree

Apr 10, 2024

The authors attitude in the article and response to the comments are very abrasive and “my way or the highway” style polarizing. Not helpful to civil public discourse or lack thereof. I do aggree that the county council is largely a do nothing group. They virtue signal alot, say nice sounding stuff and do nothing

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John Servais

Apr 10, 2024

Actually, Jon’s comment is within the guidelines for comments on NW Citizen.  He does not make any personal insults but rather sticks to the issue and facts.  Yes, his writing is sharp, concise and does not waste words on courtesies.

I founded NW Citizen 30 years ago and am now one of the three owners.  Sharp discussion is something that we accept here.  Indeed, in my 5 decades of political civic activism in this county, I have foound that if the ‘powers that be’ do not like what a critic says or writes, no matter how politely, they will find some reason to  marginalize that person.  I am not suggesting that Mr. Verbree is part of that practice, but I think his comment and concern is incorrect in that Jon sticks to the issue.  And that is what is needed for civic dialog.

For NW Citizen, the line is at personal insults, with the exception of elected public officials.  We have cancelled commenters for violating that and we have at times removed the comments.  Jon is a serious researcher of the facts around Internet and broadband access in our county and we embrace his writing here on NW Citizen.

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Jon Humphrey

Apr 11, 2024

Thanks John, we see comments that try to move us away from the core issues and exclude numbers and facts when no good counterargument can be made. For example, Cat 7 cable can be run for about 100 meters with no loss. Fiber 100 Kilometers. Millimeter wave, like in 5G, claims about 91 meters, but they are easily disrupted. These differences matter, a lot Kaylee, etc.

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