For those new to the concept of the phrase, “Bye, Felicia!” allow me to explain. This phrase comes from an iconic scene in the movie, “Friday.” It is now universally accepted as a dismissive send-off of a parasitic, unwanted, individual. In our case, a company or companies.
Long before our public works director was forming his corrupt Broadband Advisory Group chock full of special-interest representatives, Century-Link (now Lumen) and Comcast were trying to intimidate our officials into not pursuing public broadband. They even threatened to leave and take their services with them, as they continue to do via the BAG from time to time. This article is about how beneficial that would actually be for our community and why we must not be afraid.
Big telecom services are inferior and nothing like public fiber-optic service, as proven by the pandemic, our testing, and independent testing in places such as Anacortes and Mount-Vernon. And on top this, the big telecoms have had decades to improve their infrastructure and refused to do so. What did they do instead? They stole the $400 billion dollars given to them by taxpayers to provide the USA with a nationwide fiber to the premises network by 2010. It’s simply how they do things. So giving them more money will generally have the same result. It’s why we need a new plan which involves providing fiber to the premises as a public utility. Further, companies like Century-Link and Comcast would open themselves up to a multitude of class-action lawsuits if they just abandoned our entire city.
Well actually, in the CenturyLink contract that the city’s IT director was incompetent enough to recommend our council and mayor sign a few years ago, CenturyLink declared they would abandon us if they didn’t gain enough customers to be larger than Comcast in Bellingham. This agreement, that Mayor Linville and the council signed, also outlined how Century-Link would bring few jobs and no local office to Bellingham, unless we made them a virtual monopoly, bigger than Comcast. Comcast, as the current virtual monopoly holder, would definitely have been on that chopping block.
The last time I met with him, even Mayor Fleetwood commented on how bad the CenturyLink PRISM TV service was and how CenturyLink’s pretend Gig service constantly fluctuated in and out of HD. Yes, Mayor Fleetwood, what you’ve experienced is real, and CenturyLink has no intention of ever providing us quality infrastructure. In fact, their pretend fiber scheme is actually covered in the book “Fiber” by Susan Crawford. Their actual goal is to hook more people up to obsolete DSL services using their pretend fiber service, which is awful too, as a carrot.
All of the big telecom connections perform well below what their stated speeds are on an accurate load test like RRUL, which is why the state and big telecoms recommend we continue to use fake speed testers as covered in this article. They know that if we perform load testing county-wide that they will have no argument, but fortunately for them most of our officials are happy to play ball with special interests. PUD Commissioner Grant, Satpal, our Port Commissioners, council members, and more are blocking the efforts of Commissioner Deshmane to conduct a proper county-wide broadband survey based on load testing even though it would cost less than $20,000 and give them the critical data they need to know where to lay fiber with the greatest benefit to all. They are doing this to protect the interests of WAVE, a private fiber company that charges 13.5 times more for fiber services than in Anacortes and tens, or sometimes even hundreds of times more, just to get hooked up. So please, write to the PUD and Port and let them know that we need a proper load test study to be conducted of broadband connections in Whatcom County including Bellingham.
On top of this, big telecom services are based on old, literally obsolete last-mile technology and need to be replaced. So when Comcast or CenturyLink representatives threaten our council members, mayor, and/or the public with the promise to leave if they don’t get their way, we should say, “Bye, Felicia!” When WAVE bullies us so they can keep overcharging us by 13.5 times for their services we should say, “Bye, Felicia!” When the wireless companies overcharge us for garbage hotspots which failed our schools, students and community during the pandemic we should say, “Bye, Felicia!” Please, please take your overpriced garbage services and get out so we can start doing the work we’ve needed to for decades and stop pretending that we have choice. We don’t.
Now, before we make the argument that we can’t afford to lose the jobs that CenturyLink, Comcast and big telecoms bring here, remember that most repairs are done by poorly paid independent contractors who receive no benefits. In truth, all of these “employees” would be much better off setting up their own, local, net-neutral, companies on a public-fiber network rather than working for any of the big telecoms. I’m talking about the people that actually do the work, not the upper-crusty bosses who threaten us with removing their virtually worthless services.
Their departure, frankly, would be great! Public fiber networks would increase competition for customers, giving us more real choice and better service. The only companies that would lose are the abusive big telecoms. Everyone else would be better off.
Public fiber would be in our best interests. Then the mayor, council, corrupt city staff, and special interests could stop pretending that existing obsolete, inadequate, overpriced big telecom services are a good option. Choosing among the broadband equivalents of different types of turds isn’t really a choice, unless you’re really into turds… And I guess our officials must be, because that’s what they keep offering us in their proposals for broadband. They just continue to suggest those moldy old broadband turds, which does keep the special interests happy, but it’s always at the expense of everyone and everything else.
My God, the city sat on an existing, public fiber network for years, including throughout the entire pandemic. Is it time for public fiber yet? Could we maybe, finally start using that, like we should have been doing this whole time? Could the Port stop sitting on the millions they have in the bank, specifically for a rural broadband project, and get to work already?