More Broadbandwashing and Anti-Voter Secrecy

The foam of secrecy hides all.

The foam of secrecy hides all.

Recently, a document was leaked to us that I would like to review. It is a questionnaire from the Whatcom Democrats to PUD candidates. Now, let me start by saying that I hold no illusions that the Republicans will do the right thing when it comes to broadband. Like the Democrats, they are both obsessed with protecting special interests, like their wealthy donors, against the public interest. However, it is important to note, again, that the Democrats act exactly like the Republicans in most regards. So, let’s pick apart the candidate questions and see how they’re trying to fool us into thinking they’re progressive…again.

Let's start with the pre-question statement where the Whatcom Democrats assure their candidates that, “your answers will be shared only internally.” This means they will not share any of these responses with pesky voters who, obviously, don’t deserve to know the truth about their candidates according to the Democrats. The Democrats will let voters know what they deserve to know and if you question them, watch out!

Question 1. Ensuring affordable access to high-speed Internet….

Since they have not set any testing standard, all they are "committing" to are the poor standards already set by the state and FCC: Whatcom County gave us this useless resolutionI’ve written about before; the Port of Bellingham has also opted for virtually worthless private solutions, as we’ve already talked about, and little has changed since I printed this article. The PUD isn’t even mentioned, although they gave us this joke of an extended ancient cable TV broadband solution recently. The tribes opted for a totally failed Starlink solution, largely on the poor advice given to them by PUD Commissioner Christine Grant and Sexual Harassment Defender Satpal Sidhu. And the “leaders” of Whatcom cities like Bellingham are currently being fed yet another presentation by a guy named John Gavin, who is yet another handpicked private fiber representative brought to us by Public Works Director Eric Johnston. This, after giving us a Broadband Advisory Group filled with big telecom interests, including voting members from WAVE, and after the former public works director, Ted Carlson, brought in Ray Poorman of CSS Communications to defend his own interests. It’s a long history.

Time after time the city gives us private industry leaders and allows them to defend special interests instead of bringing real progress. By the way, Gardenview Village, the tiny home community at the former Clean Green location, is currently paying $400 a month for a Comcast connection that doesn't come close to meeting their needs. COB fiber runs up the street next to the community, but Johnston and the City Council refuse to help them. The Democrats are aware of all of this and they could do something, but they refuse to, because they’re funded by the same big money interests as the Republicans. 

Question #1 is broadband washing and it’s useless.

2. Public internet service costs.

Note how there is no mention of providing free 50 Mbit symmetrical low-income connections like are provided on the Chattanooga, TN public network. On top of this, the prices here are much higher than much of the rest of the developed world, like Japan and South Korea, where Gigabit symmetrical fiber to the premises connections are about $25 per month. Like their good friends, the Republicans, the Democrats want to pretend like the virtually worthless low-income option provided by big telecom are adequate. As we’ve shown many times via testing, they are not. Note: The free connections in Chattanooga are much better than any connection you can get in all of Whatcom County especially when you consider the cost per Mbit.  

Again, their speeds here are not symmetrical (100 Mbps download/100 Mbps upload) and they set no other standards for latency or connection type. They are, for example, pretending that wired connections and wireless are the same, when they are absolutely not. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. (If you haven’t already, please read “Fiber” by Susan Crawford, and/or “The 5G Myth” by William Webb, and/or this excellent article by local journalist Leslie Shankman, comparing connection types.) 

The Democrats are well aware that the only real way to provide what we need is to provide proper fiber-to-the-home-connections, yet they want to protect special interests, especially big wireless. And no, the private companies advertising “fiber” on the side of their trucks don’t hold up to real testing either. There simply is no standard set for who can advertise “fiber” connections, so providers simply lie to us knowing that we don’t really have the robust backhaul connections in all of Whatcom County to provide anything like Chatanooga, TN or other public networks. 

In fact, none of the connections they mention here hold up to real testing standards like RRUL load testing. The Democrats also know that a real testing standard must be set for any meaningful progress to be made, but like the corrupt FCC and WA State Broadband Office, they know that if they do not set a standard, they can protect big telecom while pretending to be progressive. 

3. Encouraging Whatcom County and Whatcom cities to institute Dig Once Policies?

This one is the most hypocritical. Think about it, the corporate Democrats have a stranglehold on politics here. They could demand that Dig Once policies be implemented. More than that, they could simply implement one based on the Mount Vernon standard as we’ve been telling them for about 10-years now. They intentionally use soft language here (“encouraging?”) so they can posture good management without making any real commitment. You know, the usual. 

4. Adopting an open access policy…

Notice that there is no mention of a public provider here anymore. That’s because they want to give infrastructure away to the private sector in a corporate welfare move. Sure, open access is better than nothing, (“open” meaning available to multiple private providers). But the City, County, Port and PUD are all allowed to be providers, (the PUD has a specific broadband manager). So, our current lack of a public provider proves that the Democrats priority is whatever special interests and the Republicans want, not what the voters need. 

5. …is about power, which I have a lot of good information on, but I want to keep this article about broadband.

Don’t Throw Your Vote Away!
The major parties tell you to stick with them, that voting for third parties is essentially throwing your vote away. But look at the complete lack of real progress the major parties have given us over the last 10 years, just with broadband. Good God, a Dig Once Policy reduces the cost of installing infrastructure by 90%, and they can’t even get that done. The only candidates that have given us real commitments to infrastructure have been from third parties, like Jason Call from the Green Party. For example,  Obergruppenführer Rick Larsen gives us perpetual warfare, and genocide, and supports big telecom first, like most of his party. Think I’m going to far with this? Larsen, and his supporters, get a giant portion of their donations from weapons manufacturers and perpetuate warfare to keep them happy while we all suffer. So, I say to you, don’t throw your vote away by voting for more of the same. Don’t vote for a major party that will only give you more of the same, which is worse than nothing. Actions speak louder than words, and neither party is even trying to help most of us. 

It’s Time to Demand:
1. Adoption of the Dig Once Policy outlined in this article (from before Whatcom Democrats Chair Andrew Redding got former TAGNW director Michael Gan fired).

2. Replace Whatcom Democrat leadership with real progressives. It’s time for them to practice what they’ve been preaching. (Or we can just admit that protecting special interests is really what they are about and stop supporting them. It’s obvious at this point.)  

3. Demand speed standards that are set using RRUL network load testing and that wireless connections NOT be considered equivalent to wired connections because they’re simply not the same.

4. Demand that claims on speed be set on symmetrical speeds only. We need fast upload speeds for video conferencing, education, telemedicine, etc., etc.

5. Demand Public Works director Johnston finally be fired for corruption. 

6. Demand that entities like Gardenview Village tiny homes have access to the existing COB public fiber network that is already running past their community. They should be spending their money on food, building materials, and other necessities instead of virtually worthless Comcast connections.

7. Demand that the Whatcom Democrats produce real candidates that make clear statements and commitments, followed by real action, and actual progress, instead of this shameful bait and switch con game. We deserve better than what either major party is giving us. Or just join and support a different party. Remember what Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”     

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 [...]

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