I took my kids to Bloedel Donovan Park recently to rent a paddle boat, but in the building that operates the rental business, the internet was down, as it often is. So, because many customers do not carry enough cash to pay for rentals, with no internet, this small business unfortunately could not process credit cards. The internet was out for most of the work day. Why? Because they are Comcast customers.
While my kids played at the lake, I watched about $250 worth of customers walk away just in the few hours I was there. The shop was forced to wait several hours for Comcast to restore their internet service. So in just a few hours of an outage, this seasonal shop lost about five times its monthly Comcast cost for internet services
But here’s the rub: That building is rented from the City of Bellingham and is on land owned by the city, so technically, our public land. What this means is that the city's fiber network is less than 20 feet from their building. In fact, the main Bloedel Park building has COBPUBLIC wi-fi and fiber in it.
The people who operate the boat rental shack are running a small business and paying a healthy rent to the COB (I have requested the exact amount). Still, the city doesn't include internet services as part of the rent, even though it would cost them literally nothing to do so. This means they aren't even wiring all of their own buildings, on their own land, when they bring fiber in for their own use. Instead the COB, IT staff, and public works uses this lack of fiber as a reason to force tenants to pay for the less useful, less reliable, overpriced services of Comcast instead. Even though public fiber is literally right there.
Not too long ago the COBPUBLIC fiber network at the library's main branch proved functionally worthless as well. A recent incident where a COB truck backed into some equipment may have been to blame. So, why didn't city staff verify that their equipment was working correctly after such an incident? I mean, it’s literally their job. The city employs its own network technicians who are well paid, including excellent benefits. The IT director makes over $150K a year and many technicians make $90K. Didn’t common sense dictate to these well-paid “professionals” that an electrician and network technician should confirm the system was operating properly after being hit by a truck? What are we paying them for? Why are they ignoring such obvious opportunities to make at least the existing public resources we have usable?