I’ll start this article by blowing out of the water the safety argument made by our council, mayor and public works for the gift of almost $1 million dollars to AT&T. Verizon and AT&T have both been in hot water lately for throttling First Responder connections. When do they throttle, aka slow down or restrict, connections? When the load is highest. When are First Responder connections loads expected to be the highest? During an emergency!
... telecoms will be throttling the connections of our first responders when they are needed the most.
Why do big telecoms love doing this? Well, there are several reasons, but one of them is that they always half-ass their fiber installs. Having lots of fiber for backhaul is essential to a truly safe network. So Verizon, AT&T, and all of the other anti-net neutral, anti-first amendment telecoms will be throttling the connections of our first responders when they are needed the most. I wrote in my last article about the need for a safer public system, and the problems with handing over the keys to AT&T instead. In short, safety and big telecoms simply do not go together.
In 2016 I started out working on the public broadband issue by offering an olive branch to the City of Bellingham (referred to as COB). Since they always claim to be out of money, I had put together a small team of experienced professionals, and a few people willing to drag some conduit around, willing to volunteer their services to help improve our public broadband connectivity.
I was told many things by Ted Carlson and Marty Mullholland at my 80-minute meeting with them that didn’t add up. One would be that they would use every excuse possible to refuse help from the community. But the oddest thing they said was that the existing network wasn’t usable and that they didn’t even know where it all was. This would be contradicted later by other documentation that I’ve written about in other articles. Ted stated that the fiber was largely in streetlights and hard to use. He would later offer these same streetlights to Verizon, AT&T, etc. for 5G small cells. Public works would also admit to installing 2-inch by 2-inch conduit for their own use at least double the rate of many other communities, enough space to carry 13,872 Wavelengths and up to 1,775,616 services with the right equipment. They would claim that somehow the COB needed to save this for themselves and future expansion. Funny, I didn’t know that the COB had 13,872 buildings to serve.
None of their claims added up, but they were withholding information and stonewalling as much as possible. This resulted in many public records requests, and the production of some documentation. They are still trying to withhold some more documents, and we’re still working on that. Anyway, one of the documents would show that the COB would give almost $1 million dollars to AT&T, guarantee them rent for 20 years at a low rate, and run them public fiber to the Sehome Hill Facility.
... at the same time they were telling the public that the resources they paid for weren’t usable, they would lease them to AT&T.
Since the council is aware of all of this I won’t defend them too much, but it is worth noting that this all happened in 2016 and was done mostly under the radar as an extension to an existing contract. That’s right, at the same time they were telling the public that the resources they paid for weren’t usable, they would lease them to AT&T. T-Mobile would also show interest in using the facility.
Keep in mind that AT&T would not only serve their aforementioned FirstNet services from this facility at $60 a smartphone plan a month (mostly paid by taxpayers), but would also serve their regular customers as well. The document would be a major modification to the facility, but written up as a simple modification to an existing contract to keep it under the radar of any real review. In short, AT&T would make many millions of dollars off of the facility. We’d pay to upgrade it, make almost nothing off of our lease with them, and their services wouldn’t even really be safe.
I know a lot of business owners who rent spaces. In general, their landlords don’t pay to upgrade their spaces for them, so why is the COB (the landlord in this case) doing it for one of the largest companies in the history of the world?
So there you have it. While the COB is telling us they can’t do anything about housing, the homeless situation, broadband, or do basically anything else useful on behalf of most of its citizens, they certainly can give corporate welfare to big, anti-net neutral, anti-first amendment telecoms, that will throttle the connections of emergency responders. Sounds to me like we need to ask AT&T for our money back.
Here is a link to the AT&T/COB Corporate Welfare agreement. I recommend you look at who signed it. They were most of the same people who went out of their way to represent Verizon at the July 2018 meeting. Sure, you can say that the City’s attorney Matt Stamps was just doing his job, he probably was. You can say that the mayor was signing something she didn’t understand and was relying on her staff. Maybe. Still, it’s sad that at a time when our homeless population was already out of control, our schools needed more funding, the cost of housing was already outrageous, and a host of other social problems faced our citizens, the upper-echelon at the COB would find yet another way NOT to help out its citizens. It would help out a giant, unethical mega-corp instead. Sadly, this is yet another sad story in a saga of putting those who can already help themselves ahead of those who can not.
One last thing that’s worth a mention. The State of California has started resisting these outrageous telecoms and the equally outrageous laws being pushed by Ajit Pai and the most corrupt FCC in American history. It’s time we did the same.