Northern Light Reprints County Council Broadband Lies, and I can’t figure out why they’re lying…

The author outlines definitional problems in our broadband efforts

The author outlines definitional problems in our broadband efforts


On page 5 of the “Northern Light,” under Rural broadband construction project, I was saddened, but not shocked, to see the lies of the County Council, Port, PUD and county executive reprinted verbatim in relation to broadband. The statement reads, 

Council unanimously approved an interlocal grant agreement with the Port of Bellingham to support a rural broadband project in east Whatcom County, in the amount of $2 million. Funding will come out of the county’s public utilities improvement fund.

“The construction project will upgrade broadband infrastructure by building fiber to the premises (FTTP) in two locations, east of the town of Nooksack and along the northern portion of Mosquito Lake Road.”

Unfortunately, this simply is NOT true. The projects are actually microwave dish to fiber projects. So NOT real fiber projects. This matters, as pointed out by this MythBusters chart, because the technologies are different.

In this case however, I can’t figure why they don’t just say, “We’re bringing broadband to unserved people in rural areas.” See? No lying needed and they can still look like they’re doing something.

These setups will bring broadband to customers that the telecoms don’t care about, meaning that some people who were not connected will get decent, emphasis on the word decent, internet service. As I’ve reported before, the Port, PUD, city and county councils have no intention of competing with big telecom in any significant way. This means they’re leaving us all with subpar service while the city is still sitting on an existing, extensive, publicly-owned network.

So why do they always lie to us? 

As Andrew Reding, Chair of the Whatcom Democrats, said to me once on the phone, “Dig Once and public broadband are overwhelmingly popular with the citizens, but our elected officials are all against it and just won’t do it.” So, to rephrase, they know we want it, but they don’t give a shit because many of them are in the pocket of a local big telecom investor

I’m sure Andrew will pretend this is a misquote, as he does with every honest thing I tell you that he doesn’t like. In fact, he recently tried to ruin my life here to protect Sharon Shewmake, Satpal, Ramel and other corrupt Corporate Democrats after I linked them to the local 5G investor in my last article. They will say, “We don’t take corporate donations,” but there is a lot of dark money from local big telecom interests in both parties. So pathological lying is just par for the course with our elected officials and their allies. 

In fact, the last time I looked at the Whatcom Democrats website they had changed from supporting fiber and Dig Once to simply using the generic term “broadband” just like Republicans that supported Trump, Ajit Pai, and his corrupt FCC. Using the generic term “broadband” is a clear indication that the Whatcom Democrats are going to do what the Corporate Democrats and their good friends, the Trump Republicans, have always done, flush hundreds of millions of dollars into big telecom and other special interests to continue to give us overpriced, often literally obsolete, broadband connections while towns like Anacortes pass us like we’re standing still as they continue to put in real public fiber infrastructure.    

I know what you’re saying, “Jon, tell me something I don’t know. The major parties here quarter ass everything they do, when they bother to do anything at all, which is almost never.” Okay, but this time the reason is a bit deeper. Here it is: Because this is a highly technical issue, and people generally need more education on this issue, and in order to get votes while keeping big money special interests happy, our elected officials want to appear to be doing something they’re not. So, they have to lie to you and say they’re doing fiber to the premises when actually they’re not. 

The bottom line is, we still don’t have a Dig Once Policy even though I wrote one. Over the last eight years, I’ve also recommended dozens of other usable documents to our officials and political parties. I never said, “you have to use my document.” I just said, “choose a successful one to use as a template, mine is pretty dang good, btw.” Still, we’ve had no real results because of the cowardice of our elected officials who abandoned us during the pandemic and continue to do so. For instance, after campaigning on Dig Once and Public Broadband, Commissioner Grant hired a new PUD general manager who is anti-public broadband and against a Dig Once policy. So why did they hire a new broadband specialist at the same time? Grant and Deshmane both ran on public broadband platforms, but ultimately turned out to be unable or unwilling to hold the GM accountable. Then, they surrendered all control to the Port saying, “We’re waiting to see what our role with the Port may be.” Jaime Arnett is still out there talking about Dig Once.

Satpal’s reaction to all of this was disturbing on many levels. In an e-mail to me he said, “Also when you use foul language, it is the proof that your argument is very weak, and you are trying to prop it up by degrading language.” Satpal has a hard time separating his personal beliefs from his position. I have argued the facts, but he has never made a strong, mathematically-based argument. Satpal also personally killed an $11,000 RRUL (network load testing) study so he could pass off lower quality connections as adequate. Both Satpal and Ken Bell indicated that they would prefer to spend ten times more to hire Petrichor broadband to do a less accurate study using a much less accurate tester at about 10 times the cost. Both Satpal and Ken indicated that they simply won’t do the right thing if it means working with someone they don’t personally like. Again proving that they are incapable of putting the needs of our citizens ahead of their pride. Satpal’s concerns about cursing are also a clear indicate to those of us that have worked in the trades that Satpal had most likely done very little real work with his hands for a living with a diverse group of people. Many people in the trades curse, they are not bad people. In fact, it’s usually the opposite story. They are the people that keep our society running. It’s sad that Satpal can’t work with the diverse population he represents. 

Sharon Shewmake and Todd Donovan are also supposed to be approached with kid gloves, but in their case the problem is their raging sense of superiority, as they will both mansplain topics to you, especially topics they don’t understand. 
Kaylee Galloway’s response to their inability to put their personal beliefs aside and work with the diverse community they live in, was to suggest renaming “Dig Once” because of its association with me. Here’s the problem, “Dig Once” was NEVER my policy. I learned about it from Community Broadband Networks and the Fiber Optic Association. I push it because it’s one of the world’s most important infrastructure policies and everyone will benefit from it.

But instead of working on a real county-wide fiber network, and real fiber to the premises (FTTP) solutions, Satpal and the Port/County Council are simply going to lie to you about it. In fact, very little of the money we pay in taxes is applied to our issues, and most of it is too little, too late. Satpal was willing to hold hundreds of millions of dollars hostage during the pandemic. But hey, the council supported him in that too. Also, they’re leaving out the detail that they’re leaving the cost of connection to this pretend fiber system totally up to the homeowners and businesses, many of whom will simply not be able to afford to even connect. 

Satpal, Donovan, Shewmake, Grant and most of our elected officials —my God, is this really the best we can do when it comes to elected officials? Uneducated, irrational people who can’t be bothered to read a book (“Fiber”) and think cursing changes the laws of physics? I hope we all realize what this type of leadership means and how damaging it is.

The truly tragic thing is that Satpal, Seth Fleetwood and Atul Deshmane all sat at my kitchen table years ago and told me what a great idea public broadband and Dig Once were. Kaylee Galloway told me a few months ago, “If we are going to make broadband a political issue, we have to play the game.” Although I’m sure she and most of our politicians are experts at “the game,” the problem is, the game doesn’t produce anything useful for citizens. So please, stop playing the game and focus on rational, practical, solutions…and us!

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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