City Drags Feet On Creation Of Broadband Committee

Bellingham is foot-dragging and Whatcom County gives nearly $1 million to “Big Telecom.”

Bellingham is foot-dragging and Whatcom County gives nearly $1 million to “Big Telecom.”

This is an update on the selection of the Broadband Advisory Group. A few days ago, I was informed by Public Works Director Eric Johnston that selection of this group, originally slated for October 1st, was slowed down, partially because all the consulting firms the city approached to help them choose members declined to help them with this or any other telecom resolutions, documentation, etc. I am sure that with all the corruption surrounding telecom in Bellingham, no firm wants their name attached to the COB and telecom right now. Would you want to help Eric set up a sham broadband committee to protect big telecom when the pandemic has made the need for fiber so clear? I found out that behind the scene, some people were directly asked to apply to the group. I’m sure this included Eric stacking the deck with pro-big-telecom people. Still, Mayor Fleetwood promised us he would be choosing the members, and only 28 people applied. How hard can this be? So what happened? The city has no further comment on the topic. So I am asking, again, that you contact them. Contact info is below.

And in case you’re wondering, the county is in on the incompetence, mismanagement, and corruption too, via backdoor deals the public was not allowed to comment on. My latest article is included in this update and shows real load test data. You know, like the COB, state and federal governments intentionally don’t use to test big telecom connections. The county handed nearly $1 million almost entirely to big telecom, for inadequate solutions that won’t be ready until next month in most cases. So, by the time most people even benefit from this inadequate deal, about 230 days will have passed since the quarantine started. This $1 million could have paid for about five miles of conduit with 144-count fiber, at Mount Vernon installation rates, and any hotspots hooked up to it could have been provided for free to the public from then on.

Bellingham Public Schools are going to finally allow their sites to be used as safe internet cafes for a very limited number of people, something we suggested in April and offered to help setup. Yet they are still resisting putting up external wireless hotspots like Whatcom Community College and the city libraries have done. To be clear, it’s not a funding issue.

[City Contact Info:, and

County Contact Info: and]

About Jon Humphrey

Citizen Journalist • Bellingham • Member since May 23, 2017

Jon Humphrey is currently a music educator in Bellingham and very active in the community. He also has decades of professional IT experience including everything from support to development. He [...]

Comments by Readers

John Hatten

Oct 20, 2020

Thank you Jon for keeping us current on this important issue. Delaying tactics are one of many used to get unpopular initiatives (like the privatization of public resources) into practice. I will write all of the contacts you list and let them know that I want public resources to be used by the citizens of our community and not as a profit center for businesses. I’m fine with businesses making money - just not from public resources.

John Hatten 360-671-7012


Jon Humphrey

Oct 22, 2020

Thanks, John. It is sad to think about the fact that every time we spend public money with a private company, usually for a much less reliable, and therefore overpriced form of broadband, we also miss an opportunity to build robust public infrastructure. I think Mount Vernon has struck a good balance with their Open Access network. They have 9 local, net-neutral providers that lease resources on the network. These leases, along with attracting next-generation businesses, and more, mean that the network pays for its own expansion at no additional cost to taxpayers. They also have a municipal side that serves their critical services. I have visited Mount Vernon and seeing first-and what they can do with their infrastructure makes you realize that in comparison we’re standing still in Bellingham. I have highlighted this model to the COB many times and with Anacortes offering $70 a month Gigabit fiber to the premises services, we’re already way behind. 

To comment, Log In or Register