Well, the fix is almost official. Sadly, Public Works Director Eric Johnston, with the help of council-member Michael Lilliquist, did exactly what we expected them to do: They created an internet advisory group that is very weighted toward big-telecom. Of 16 voting and non-voting members, (seven voting and nine non-voting,) there is only one voting member to represent public interests. Extra non-voting seats were created for big telecom and WAVE so that they may act as experts against the publics’ wishes.
On Monday, January 11, the Bellingham Broadband Advisory Group members are set to be elected. Below is the list of names. Sadly, neither Whatcom County PUD Commissioner and President Atul Deshmane, nor I, are on the list (aka, the biggest champions for public fiber). On top of that neither is the president of Technology Alliance Group Northwest (TAG), Michael Gan who supports public fiber, tech education for the poor, and our local net-neutral providers among many other things. The libraries, who use the existing public network extensively and are providing some of the only access to it during the pandemic, also have no representation. What do they all share? They used their First Amendment rights to speak openly about supporting public fiber, so Michael Lilliquist and Eric Johnston simply made sure they were not included on the committee.
Just as we predicted, it’s apparent our city does not want a real discussion about broadband that might benefit our citizens; their mission is to protect big telecom.
In fact, even the goals of the BAG are still not clearly outlined. We, and presumably they, don’t actually know what, if anything, they’re going to do. We do know it is unlikely they will turn out a real Dig Once Policy to override the fictitious conduit ordinance I’ve written about before. You may remember, it’s the one that doesn’t talk about actually installing conduit. Here is the link to my article about the fake conduit ordinance. .
Adding insult to injury, there is no real balance on this advisory group. For instance, big telecom is overly represented, while the libraries do not have any representation at all, even though they’re big users of our existing public network and are providing public access during the pandemic to many. Business interests, who unfortunately have virtually no technological backgrounds or expertise were prioritized as voting members over those of us with technical backgrounds who would advocate for our community and could handle technical and intricate policy discussions with big telecom reps.
It is likely that only big telecom will have much of a voice, because they will be highlighted as the experts. Eric Johnston told me that this was part of his plan during a recent interview. He said he didn’t want technical people as voting members, and that the expertise would come from the non-voting members. In fact, he spent a third of my interview highlighting how he, Michael, and “several other he interviewed” personally were concerned that I “was too set in my ways on recommending fiber.” Yes Eric, that’s because you need inexpensive, reliable, fiber services to make everything work correctly for the greatest number of people. So that’s exactly the discussion we need to have in our community especially during a pandemic when those services are more needed than ever before. We should pause for a moment and recall that the COB is still siting on an existing publicly owned fiber-optic network during a pandemic and it doesn’t bother them at all.
Of the nine non-voting members, almost all have serious, pro-big-telecom, conflicts of interest, and in fact, seven of the nine are sure to defend and promote big telecom. So the fix is in: the telecoms are set to be presented as the only experts and they will be provided a captive audience in the voting members.
In the list below, I’ll include the conflicts of interest in parentheses following each name. The information that follows the parentheses are descriptions from the COB. In short, of the seven voting members, three lack broadband experience, there is no indication they are public broadband experts, nor have any history of working with the digital divide. Neither Commissioner Deshmane nor I are on the committee so there will be little expertise and minimal input regarding public broadband. Finally, there are no interviews scheduled to hear from any “outside” public broadband experts, for instance, experts from Mount Vernon, Anacortes, or Community Broadband Networks. At least one, possibly two, outside interviews will advocate for big telecom and/or WAVE. WAVE will, of course, fail to mention how their services cost 13.5 times more than they do in Anacortes and are not available everywhere.
Note: COI = Conflict of Interest.
I should also note that Eric’s descriptions are totally inadequate.
Linda Fels. (COI: None known.) Linda retired from a career as a software developer with the Indian Health Services and is a small business owner relying on internet access.
Maximilian Carper. (COI: Spent much of his career working with Comcast, CenturyLink, and other big telecoms). Maximilian is an IT and network technology professional with a strong technical background relevant to the conversation.
Kristopher Keillor. (Working on a community fiber project. Possible COI: WAVE is likely providing the dark fiber for this at a very high cost.) Kristopher is an electrical engineering student at WWU with relevant technical expertise. Kristopher has been a disaster relief volunteer with AmeriCorps and is interested in engaging in more civic issues.
RB Tewksbury. (COI: Business rep. Why does the business community need to be represented here over someone with tech experience that can protect the poor and close the digital divide?) RB has a strong background in business administration and finance. RB has served on the Board of several non-profit organizations.
Don Gischer. (COI: Business rep. Ok, I applaud his work for our deaf community, but what about his experience with broadband? Again, why does the business community need to be represented here? Johnston and Lilliquist chose two business people as voting members over someone with tech experience who can protect the poor and close the Digital Divide?) Don is a former Bellingham City Council member with a background in business and general public policy. Don has been recently active in supporting access to city services for the hearing impaired using technology (eg hearing loops). (Note: Eric refers here to the deaf as “hearing impaired.” He seems unaware that this is offensive to the deaf community.)
Michelle Kopcha (COI: None known.) A former livestock veterinarian and educator, Michelle brings a broad, general perspective. Michelle has been active in the community through the League of Women voters and Bellingham City Club.
Spencer Moore. (Appliance tech, with limited network experience. Also, this seems odd because Eric told me that he specifically didn’t want people with technical expertise as voting members. If you’re going to include one, why include one that hasn’t worked on public broadband?). Spencer is a network engineer with a strong technical background relevant to the conversation.
[Note update1/23/2021: The original list I obtained only had the seven members above, the final list has 9 and the 2 additions below are important.
Milissa Miller -- (COI) Worked for FiberCloud, BlackRock Cable (now WAVE broadband). Her entire career was built on protecting overpriced, private, fiber interests. She is basically
a WAVE representative.
Steven Spitzer -- (none found)]
As ex officio (non-voting) members:
, MOX Fiber (His career is built around protecting private telecom interests like WAVE, big telecom and his own company.)
, Lumen (formerly Centurylink)
, City of Bellingham, ITSD (Marty was specifically hired by the last administration to work with big telecom. She will act as a big telecom rep. here.)
, Bellingham School District IT (The schools’ contract with CenturyLink for their external connections, as required by our odd WA state laws, so they will most likely protect big telecom. Kurt has also blocked network testing of the publicly owned school networks and refuses to expand access as I’ve written about before. He has been clear that he doesn’t want the schools to “be an ISP to the community.” You know, the same pesky community that pays for everything the schools have).
, Port of Bellingham (The Port has an interest in running their own Open Access public fiber network.)
Whatcom PUD (We discovered this appointment was made by Lilliquist and Johnston without consulting the PUD. The PUD was supposed to choose their own member and it most likely would have been Commissioner Christine Grant or Atul Deshmane. They will be discussing why the COB went around them and didn’t have the common courtesy to consult them regarding the appointment on Tuesday after the COB BAG conformation vote on Monday.)
, City of Bellingham, Public Works (Has always protected big telecom.)
So please, I must ask you once again to contact your councils and mayor and ask that public broadband expertise be included on this critical advisory group.
Comments by Readers
Michael LilliquistJan 08, 2021
I do not know where you get you information, but it is not always accurate.
Not only did I not chose the advisory group members, I never even saw the list of names or applications. I was not part of the review of any of the applications, nor any of the interviews of applicants. I do not know when the interviews were held. The selection process was carried out by the mayor and Mr. Johnston, I presume. I wasn’t there. You should probably speak with Seth about his choices, rather than make unfounded guesses about my involvement. I flat-out deny that I had any role in selecting Brian Walters—I did not even know his name until after he was appointed, and I don’t even know his job title or his resume. Your statement is false.
A couple months back, the mayor and I did discuss generally speaking who he might appoint. And in fact, I suggested that you, Jon, would be an important voice on the Workgroup, even if you might stir up a bit of trouble. I half expected he would appoint you, for obvious reasons given your activity on this issue. I also fully expected that the mayor would appoint Atul Deshmane to the workgroup, and I spoke in favor of doing so. (Maybe Atul suggested Brian’s name? I don’t know. I’ll have to ask Atul.) I also said we should not appoint industry representatives to the advisory group as voting members.
And just so you know, I don’t see a constructive role for the reps from Comcast or CenturyLink as ex-officio members. I plan to ask Seth about this at the meeting on Monday. I think industry lobbyists will try to throw a monkey wrench into the works, much as the Cascades Natural Gas rep tried to derail the Climate Action Taskforces’s work. I do see a very useful role for Port, PUD, and school district representatives on the workgroup.
You will recall that I promoted a budget proposal (in 2019) to help pay for consultant or experts (like Christopher Mitchell), in case we needed more expertise on how to make municipal broadband work. This would give us credible information without having to rely upon the industry. That money went unspent in 2020, due to Covid. It’s still there to be used to support the workgroup.
Also, just so you know, I support the idea of working more closely with the PUD on this subject. As you know, at least two Whatcom PUD commissioners are strong supporters of broadband development. We might be able to move Bellingham’s efforts forward faster if we partner with the PUD, accepting their guidance and expertise. Moreover, we might find a more viable public broadband model of we take a more comprehensive view, using fiber resources of city, county, port and PUD. Atul Deshmane has suggested joint sponsorship of the Broadband Advisory Workgroup by the city and PUD, and I am very open to the idea.
So, I know you like to portray me as an opponent of municipal broadband, but I am a supporter.
I have been a supporter for several years. I have also been a supporter of Dig Once and a better conduit policy. It’s all in the record and on video. At every step of the way, I have spoken in favor of going ahead on public fiber, and in favor of strengthening our dig once policies. The City Council’s policy analyst put in a fair amount of work in this topic because I personally moved to put it on the agenda, over objections and skepticism by other city officials. That was my leadership that put it on the map.
For the life of me, I do not know why you do not understand that you and I support the same thing.
Atul DeshmaneJan 09, 2021
Let me start with this foundation stone: “Right now our community is very frustrated with where we are at on Broadband.” Despite efforts of the Port we are still not really moving forward as a community. BTW, this is not just on the issue of Broadband it is on many issues. Jon Humphreys has done THE MOST to raise our awareness on Fiber.
Jon has done so for free. We shouldn’t need him to speak up but we do. I am sad about that. I am sad that even when we have advocates on various issues we don’t make progress. Many elected officials I know have complained to me in confidence about Jon in all parts of local government. Why can’t our local government just focus on getting things done.
BTW I am not defeated and we have new leaders that are going to help us move forward. There must be progress and accountability for those that do not deliver it. The intelligence and capability of our elected officials and staff should be channeled towards severing the community not complaining about them.
Regards, Atul Deshmane
Jon HumphreyJan 09, 2021
Thanks Atul, your description of what goes on in the background is exactly why our officials, and especially upper echelon city staff, get away with the lies all of the time. They are trained, and expert, liars.
For example, Seth complained to me at our last meeting about Eric’s and Michael’s “concerns” with me but couldn’t identify anything real to worry about among adults having normal conversation other than that I wasn’t part of the “popular kids club.” Eric complained to me at our interview about his and Michael’s concerns along the same juvenile lines. It wasn’t anything serious, but it had to do with how they don’t like being held accountable and it makes them uncomfortable. I also was not invited to his birthday party where all the cool kids were going to go. (Really, WAVE hosts a broadband party with top shelf everything.) Eric also complained to me about the concerns of an unnamed 3rd party that he says was not from big telecom. Since I pointed out how inaccurate speetest.net is I can only imagine it was the owner of speedtest.net. But shouldn’t we be talking about that kind of thing? Shouldn’t we have an accurate testing standard to base our decision on?
Michael has made his beliefs about me clear and I was contacted by other officials about how he talked to them about excluding me from committees. No one had any legit complaints beyond, “Jon doesn’t believe in toxic positivity, and does believe in accountability and accurate data, and that makes us uneasy.”
So yes, Michael did try to influence who was on the board and so did Eric. Seth was just too afraid to lead and stand up to them. All of the complaints were high school level BS. I guess our leaders haven’t studied the history of democracies and didn’t notice that often passionate people debate important topics openly and sometimes, even get annoyed with each other. This is actually a sign of healthy debate and how a healthy democracy works. The fact that Seth let Michael and Eric cry about having a real discussion shows that they are not mature enough to be trusted with important decisions. It also shows how disconnected they are from reality and the average citizen.
For example, they finally did add Christopher Mitchell from Community Broadband Networks onto the schedule. But, largely thanks to my efforts, the council met with him 5 years ago via Skype. They of course then totally ignored him. They are still refusing to meet with Mount Vernon and Anacortes who have successful public networks. In the words of IT director Marty Mullholand, “Brining in Mount Venron and their providers is not what I had in mind.” Marty was brought in specifically by the Linville administration to negotiate the Comcast and CenturyLink TV franchise agreements which have nothing to do with broadband. Yet the COB protects their broadband rights too although officially they shouldn’t be invovled in helping those companies in any way. In short, Marty and Eric are terrified of having a real discussion about fiber and so are the private interests they protect like WAVE, Comcast, CenturyLink, etc. So they just made sure that a real discussion is impossible.
Eric also said, probably on behalf of the 5G network designer that tried to get onto the group that, “I was too set on fiber.” Since fiber is needed to make every network system work well, including wireless and satellite, I can only imagine that Eric still doesn’t understand how fiber and even basic networking work. Also, isn’t this a discussion we should be having openly?
In short, they are afraid of real discussions that will help out community. They would rather put a committee together that tries to pretend that everything Eric has said about broadband over the years is correct and that we are lucky to have the terrible connections that we do. Seth still has not even read “Fiber” even though he has a copy. So he still, even after all of this, has no idea what’s going on and doesn’t care to. So I apologize to the public for not fighting for Garrett and Pinky harder. Both of who, sadly, did not primary. One wonders if this had to do with big telecom influence. Obviously they own public works.
As far as COVID slowing them down goes that’s a ruse too. Their COVID response has been pitiful and certainly isn’t taking up a lot of their time. Eric gloated to me about how he is living his best life right now at the beginning of our interview. No pandemic is going to keep him from living it up while his citizens suffer. It reminds me of when Michael Lilliquist gloated to me about being already hooked up to the same COB public fiber they say is unusable. I wonder how many other officials are hooked up for free. It doesn’t take much after all. Just some inexpensive gear and maybe a few splices. That is, of course, if you’re allowed access to the existing network like a privileged few are. Just not the public that paid for it.
Michael LilliquistJan 09, 2021
I won’t take anything away from Jon for his tireless advocacy on this issue. It is totally true that his advocacy has helped this move forward. Let all that good work stand to his credit.
What is not true is how he sometimes depicts people as opposed to these efforts. I am a steady supporter, for example, but in the last few years he has depicted e as an opponent. I don’t know why. And he also come up with odd statements that don’t make sense to me, such as:
“... It reminds me of when Michael Lilliquist gloated to me about being already hooked up to the same COB public fiber they say is unusable. I wonder how many other officials are hooked up for free. It doesn’t take much after all. Just some inexpensive gear and maybe a few splices.”
I don’t know what Join is referring to. My internet connection has always been privately payed for, using a commercial provider like everyone else. I have never been hooked up to anything for free. Unless I am in city hall, in which case I am using the same wi-fi system as the public uses. I think maybe he was referring to the old COB wireless network (which I never had access to) that was put in place for Fire Dept. but then never used. I believe the network covered a large part of downtown. I told him years ago that it showed a city-run, widespread wi-fi network was possible.
It’s this odd sort of inaccuracy and accusations that detracts from the main value and main goal of Jon’s advocacy.
In my view, internet access ought to be treated as a basis utility, and as such public entities need to work to ensure equitable and affordable access, just as we do with drinking water and electricity. (The language about equitable and affordable access in the Workgroup charter, by the way, was included specifically on my request.) In some cases, a basis utility is provided directly by a government entity (e.g. water in Bellingham) and in some cases it is provided by a regulated utility (such as PSE under the state’s regulation). In the case of internet access, it is neither: It is an unregulated private enterprise. As a result, access is often too expensive and inequitable, or worse. I think Jon and I agree that this is a huge problem. That is the problem that municipal broadband can help solve. That is why I have supported and do support a serious and credible exploration of municipal broadband models, to identify the one that would work for Bellingham.
See also answer to Question 4 in Jon’s interview of Michael from three years ago.
Maximillian CarperJan 09, 2021
Just FYI, your link refers back to this article… I think you meant this one?
Jon HumphreyJan 09, 2021
Can’t wait to see your receipts Michael. As far as the rest goes, your comments are many years old. While you say you need to investigate what model to use Anacortes uses a municipal model and Mount Vernon uses an Open Access model yet no reps. from either city are on your list of BAG interviews. Figuring out what model to use simply isn’t that hard, and you could have Open Accessed the existing network this entire time. Yet you sat on it instead, DURING A PANDEMIC, to appease Eric, Marty and the big telecoms. So your behavior is what leads to accurate comments as to your unreliability and misconduct. It is sad that you have such great intelligence but choose to take no action that benefits our citizens. As far as my advocacy goes, yes advocacy is important but I would not have been as effective if I wasn’t also an expert whose knowledge dwarfs your own, Erics’, Martys’ and many members of the BAG. This is why I also make accurate comments about how the group was intentionally hobbled. That and how you called and tried to convince other elected officials that I should not be placed on committees although my participation is in the public interest. Again, the COB excluded Atul, the libraries, and Michael Gan of TAG too. How do you expect to be taken seriously? But then again, that’s not your goal. The goal is to pretend like everything is fine with big telecom and that there is no corruption, or incompetance, at the COB. Remember, in your interview you talked a lot about broadband but never made a firm commitment to any action. Classic Lilliquist. You are the head of the public works commission. You could have easily put out a real Dig Once Policy. That was your chance, but you sat on it instead. There is no reason to wait for the BAG to establish a Dig Once or Open Access policy, yet the BAG is only going to discuss it. Will the policy even work? Probably not. You’ll probably let Eric put a clause in that allows him to override any installation he feels like. The recommendations of the BAG, that benefit the public, will probably be blown off just like the CATF. My God, the community provided you a Dig Once Policy to use based on the Mount Vernon Conduit Ordinance and the South San Francisco Dig Once Policies. Yet you let Eric put out a pretend conduit ordinance instead even though you had direct influence over the situation. The policy doesn’t even talk about installing conduit. https://nwcitizen.com/entry/updated-conduit-policy-worthless So you’re all talk, and that’s all this is going to be. If you were serious you would allow for serious debate. Again, you’re running a city, not a high school. Time to grow up. People are suffering and you can do something about it. If you’re unwilling to do your job, then let someone else in who is.
As the chair of the Public Works and Natural Resources COmmittee it was your responsibility to make sure this group was put together in the best interests of the people and you simply didn’t do it.
Maximillian CarperJan 09, 2021
I’ll start by saying that, when I received my letter from Mayor Fleetwood four days ago, I was so excited to be invited to be part of this Broadband Advisory Workgroup, where I could hopefully offer my expertise and experience, to help make life better for people in my community. I never would’ve guessed that, two days later, I would be furiously upset by having mine and my fellow proposed workgroup members’ skill, integrity, and relevance attacked on a community “news” site. Even worse was that the attacks were coming from you—someone who I was actually looking forward to talking to, because I had been told by multiple people you had already done a lot of work/research on this topic. So I got to enjoy being selected for this group for two whole days, before being forced to defend myself against a cynical, negative, opinion-laden and fact-scarce “article”, which feels far more like an angry diatribe and airing of grievances, than journalism.
I’m not fully familiar with the work you have done fighting for public fiber here in Bellingham in the ten years you’ve been here. I extended you a courtesy that I’m pretty sure you didn’t extend me or my fellow proposed B.A.G. members—I spent a little time trying to get to know you and your work before publicly commenting on it. I’ve read your resume, your B.A.G. application and letter of interest, and some of the 41 articles you’ve written for NWCitizen, including this one. Your application said you’ve been “working non-stop on this issue for 5 years”, and, based on what I’ve seen, I have no reason not to believe that. I truly believe you have done some honest, productive, impassioned work behind informing our community of the benefits of an open fiber infrastructure, and I applaud you for that.
I can see you’ve written some very informative articles/posts on this topic in the past here. However, it appears that, over time, the things you post have become increasingly cynical, especially when it comes to any elected government official who you perceive as not “on your side”. Your more-recent posts seem to play fast and loose with facts, and are filled with accusations of back-room deals by government officials… and you seem to be willing to make a lot of assertions of people’s motives and character, without providing much (if any) proof about those assertions. That brings us to what you posted here, and in the comments on your change.org petition…
As I said before, this so-called “article” is full of anger, baseless accusations, insults, and mostly-cynical opinions, misleadingly passed off as facts. I’m going to address them one-by-one:
I’ve got to say, despite all of the allegations of “conflicts of interest” here, the only real conflict of interest I see is the fact this “news media” website is allowing one of their “journalists” who is vying for a role, to write an “article” making false accusations about the people proposed for that role, before they’ve been confirmed to their positions. This isn’t even passable as an op-ed by most editorial standards, and should either be retracted, or, at least, have all of the unsubstantiated accusations and insults removed… and any opinions should be clearly marked as such, rather than stated as if they’re fact.
Jon, while your passion and raising of public awareness behind this topic are helpful, your repeated unfounded allegations and loose relationship with facts are not. If you really do want to help bring public broadband to Whatcom County, please stop stoking divisions between those responsible for making it happen, and the rest of our community… grudges, vitriol and polarization only hurt the cause. If you are so convinced certain government officials are as corrupt as you say they are, why not do some investigative journalism, and get them removed? Otherwise, I sincerely hope you can find it within yourself to stop the endless attacks and vitriol, and focus on making positive change in our community. People will be a lot more willing to work with you if they’re not expecting to be the victim of your next angry diatribe “article” when you decide you don’t like them anymore.
Maximillian R. Carper
Jon HumphreyJan 10, 2021
Thanks Max, first thank you for your work in the community.
I will go paragraph by paragraph. Much of information I have comes from public record requests which you, or any citizen, can obtain. A lot of my other information comes from years of meeting and interviews. For example, with the schools most recently.
Note: We did try the carrot first. We offered to work as volunteers to get people connected for free and more. The COB always had an excuse not to give trained professionals access to the network to help.
I do not know you personally, only what you put in your resume. Since you have worked with companies the COB has gone out of their way to protect over the years, like by hiring an IT director almost entirely to work with big telecom, I listed it as a potential COI. I am hoping to be proven wrong.
But yes, I have worked on this virtually every day for 5 years. Some days were many hours and some days were less. When I tried to take days off I would still receive phone calls, etc. Much of my time has been testing sites with the rrul network load tester recently. The schools block all testing of their publicly owned connections.
I can not control what you believe, but if you took a few minutes to talk to me before assuming I haven’t worked on it for 5 years you would find my knowledge extensive. My writing is a small sample of what I do in the community, including a program to distribute computers to those in need, on-site network connection testing using rrul and more. So I would say, in fairness, you did not extend me any courtesy because you’ve made assumptions without ever talking to me or checking out my work. Granted we’re both at a disadvantage since we’re largely operating on the small snippets of information we’ve received from short applications to the COB. For example, you somehow missed the networking experience I listed in my resume and the research I’ve done specifically on the Digital Divide, to name a few things you’ve missed. More on this below.
I am still happy to talk to you one on one. I truly hope you are community minded but dealing with the COB for years on this issue I know how they work. They like appearing to make progress and then just sitting on issues. More on this below.
There is simply no sense of urgency, even now, on any issue. Please read all my articles. You will find a documented public records request violation, former and current public works directors screaming at me behind closed doors, etc. So let’s not pretend that we’re dealing with wonderful people that want to do the right thing in public works, and are under undue attack. They’ve had years to do the right thing and sat on this resource instead. Of course it’s my word against theirs on a small amount of this stuff. I have lots of documentation for most of it though. I’ve tried to put it in as in text links in my articles. For example, via public record requests I have COB staff e-mails showing that, in general, when I release an article city staff choose to talk about it in person instead of put their responses in wrting. To keep it off the record. So much for transperancy.
Michael has had years to work on this topic. When I interviewed him years ago he delivered a message to me from Mayor Linville as soon as I stopped recording. To stop working on fiber. This, and many other reasons, were why I didn’t support candidate April Barker who said, among other things to me, “I believe Comcast and Verizon deserve to be on a committee.” I beleive she envisioned one of up to 9 members. I remember the big telecom representation being no less than 25% in her vision.
Our current Mayor hasn’t even bothered to read “Fiber.” So many of our officials are in the dark and want to remain that way. Now, if they were getting good information it would be different, but most have always relied on the telecoms as experts, even when the telecoms can’t tell them the truth without shooting themselves in the foot.
AT&T and T-Mobile have exclusive access to our public fiber at the Sehome Hill tower, yet we refuse to Open Access the network to other local, net-neutral, providers like PogoZone who operate on the Mount Vernon network and have for much longer than I’ve been here.
In fact, if you watch the PUD special meeting I presented at, you will see Eric Johnston attack a local provider for being “on the network” and admitting that they, “didn’t even know about it until they cut the cables” and that they “need to get off of the network now.” Of course, nothing illegal was going on, Eric simply didn’t track his cables well. However, he was attacking a local, net-neutral provider. The video is available on the PUD site. He also admits to not really knowing who is on the network at this meeting.
So, I am not angry. I am just stating what happened and holding people accountable. It is very important that this committee be setup to protect the public interest. A verdict of, “the telecoms are great and we don’t need to do anything” in the face of our problems is not acceptable and will not be accurate.
Michael, for example, is the chair of the Public Works Committee, he could have put a Dig Once Policy into place easily. In fact, the community generated one based off of the Mount Vernon Conduit Ordinance and South San Francisco Dig Once Policies, but they produced a pretend one instead. I’ve linked to the article above. I urge you to read through the “conduit ordinance.” Seth and Eric could have done this as well, but are dragging out this critical piece as long as possible. Open Access also could have been put into place immediately. If you notice, it’s not even on the BAG agenda.
The COB has failed our citizens in every way, especially during this pandemic. There is simply no sense of urgency. Step away from broadband for a minute and look at how they’ve never really addressed homelessness, housing, other infrastructure, really acted on the CATF recommendations (put PSE on the CATF), given our police a tank (ignoring citizens concerns about law enforcement in the wake of the George Floyd murder), and more. Yet it costs more and more to live here every year. To the point, and Garrett O’Brien pointed out in his article, that average working-class people can’t afford to live here. There is no bottom to this. Having worked in Manhattan I can tell you that the upper echelon is totally fine with making a city that only the rich can live in and busing in the poor to the do the work, for no real wage, every day. Then sending them back at the end of the day so they don’t bother the wealthy. That’s the trajectory we’re on.
Yes Max, as I said I know what was in the applications. I identified prospective COIs from there. Originally, all of the big telecom and WAVE non-voting members were slated to be potential voting members. The public responded by telling the city they didn’t want such obvious special interests on the committee. Both Michael and Eric said many times that this was necessary so they could benefit from their expertise, but there is no way they can be objective and there is plenty of non-biased expertise around. So their presence as part of the BAG is inappropriate and unnecessary. They should have been restricted to presentations. Eric said to me, in my interview, something to the effect of “he doesn’t want technical people as voting members, the expertise will come from the non-voting members.” So I know how this is going to play out. Because it all played about 5 years ago wihtout a BAG. They overquoted the Roder Ave. install, never explained it really, brought in big telecom to council meeting to represent the COB, and called it good. They had a brief council meeting with Chris Mitchell, then blew off all of his recommendations. All of this is on video from the COB meetings. Like when former public works director Carlson brought in Verizon to speak on behalf of the COB. No other experts were consulted. Also, on video.
Looking at the BAG schedule, this is exactly what Eric is planning on doing again. I have the numbers to show that the Roder Ave. install was overquoted, for example, it’s part of my research. Even the COBs policy analyst Mark Gardner wrote a report that couldn’t justify it. You can, of course, request this too. In the end their goal is to waste peoples’ time, pretend like they’ve looked at issues, drag it out as long as possible, and then take little action. Look at the pretend conduit ordinance they wrote, it has a public works director override for any reason written into it, look at the disastrous Dig Once draft they tried to push before that, it also has a public works director override. All of this is in my articles. How else do we know? Look at the failed CATF implementations, the failed bicycle master plan, and more. There is a lot of talk and no action. I hope this time it’s different, but there is no reason, based on past behavior, to believe so.
Yes, of the 16 voting members only one has spoken to me extensively about public fiber and has demonstrated knowledge in this specific area. There is no reason for me, or anyone, to assume that any of the others understand the issue. For example, the BAG has no interviews scheduled with Mount Vernon (a successful Open Access Network) or Anacortes (a successful municipal network) next door to us. Marty Mulholland has said to me in writing, before I met with her and former public works director Ted Carlson that, “she didn’t want to bring in Mount Vernon or their providers” a total of 9 local net-neutral providers. A few weeks later, before signing the CenturyLink franchise agreement, Marty made fun of the idea of public fiber and then the city singed the deal. CenturyLink never produced real results. That bit is all on video on the COB site. The date should be in one of my early articles.
Yes it is odd that everyone excluded was a proponent for public fiber. They even appointed someone from the PUD without talking to the PUD first. Commissioner Atul Deshmane has the most experience with public broadband with Commissioner Christine Grant as a close second. This was an elimination of a critical voice. The PUD also plans on working with the Port so this was a critical appointment. This was not a mistake on Eric’s part. The PUD planned on having Atul represent them, and Eric simply appointed someone else.
Many citizens wrote into the mayor and council urging them not to make special interest reps. voting members. You can do a public records request for e-mails if you’d like to see them. So Eric simply made them non-voting members to act as “experts” but do we really believe that Comcast is going to admit that fiber to the home is better? Or CenturyLink will admit that their hybrid system is not nearly as good as a real fiber system and that most of their customers still have obsolete DSL? Or that WAVE will admit that they charge too much and aren’t available everywhere? I can go on, but you get the picture. My information from the schools come from meetings with them.
I am asserting that the non-voting members overly represent big telecom. Just look at the numbers. IDK about the voting members, but with Eric vowing to me that he wanted non-technical people as voting members, with the expertise coming from the non-voting members, the rest of the story tells itself. I am glad you have some experience and can probably tell when the telecoms are full of it. Again, the applications were sparse and many did not represent support of public broadband well. So there is no reason to believe, especially with the removal of Atul, that this side of the issue will be represented.
You do not need more than one business rep. to represent the business community. If you talk to Mount Vernon you will also find out that their priority also includes their schools, and other social entities. There is more to a city than meeting the needs of its business community. It was not worth sacrificing technical skill, especially someone with extensive public broadband knowledge, for an extra business rep. A public broadband expert would have been unique to the group. Everyone else is a mixed bag. You need that too, but the public side should have been represented specifically as the big telecom side certainly is. See my list of non-voting member appointments. The bandwidth demands for education are tremendous too, especailly now. There are many members on low-income connections, being paid for with our tax dollars by the schools, that still can’t really participate in online learning. In the meantime, much of the dark fiber in the public system is by many of the schools. Certinally the schools could have followed Mason PUD#3’s example and expanded access at this time, but they didn’t.
I have done a lot of large network work especially with the colleges and non-profits I’ve worked for. This statement makes me wonder if you’ve read my resume. I’ve also been designing proper network load testers using the rrul standard which is mentioned in my application and testing sites around town. Yes, I have used Conflict of Interest here correctly. Comcast, for example, employs lots of independent contractors who can personally be impacted if they annoy big telecom and have an interest in maintaing the status quo. So it is better to err on the side of caution with people tied to Comcast, CenturyLink, etc.
I believe that no member of the committee should be allowed on if they are invested in any of the telcos represented here but there is no way to know for sure for most without a lot of justifications, lawyers, etc. when dealing with private individuals. You say you’re not invested, so I guess we’ll have to take your word for it. Documentation would be preferable but this is not required of avearge citizens.
I marked Kristopher as a possible COI. The keyword here is possible. He also seems interested in his community, which I noted to. However, if WAVE provides the background connection for his project, since they have a virtual monopoly on those services here, then he can’t afford to piss them off and still pull his project off. Other WAVE customers I’ve talked to are in the same boat. They hate WAVE but need fiber, so they must tread lightly. This is the problem with private interests an virtual monopolies. I reached out to Kristopher months ago and offered my help with his project and did not hear back.
The schools sit on a giant publicly owned fiber-optic network that they will not give the citizens real access to beyond a few internet cafes which they waited long into the pandemic to even consider opening. See my article on this. On top of that, they have made it clear that they will not “be an ISP” to the same citizens that pay for their network during a pandemic. So Kurt is in the same boat as many others. He needs his ISP to be happy with him. Still, he is in a position to help too. Ethically, the schools should not be using anti-net neutral, anti-first amendment providers.
Comments on this site are always open and generally uncensored. Just as yours were. My statements are justified. Read the rest of my articles. Lilliquist, for example, has gone back on forth on this issue for years. This is part of the public record. This site allows us to name names, and hold people accountable. That’s journalism. True, not the type we’re used to in this watered-down era, but there it is. So when he claims he supports public fiber, well it is documented that it depeneds on the day and the way the wind is blowing. He has been in a position to take decisive action and has not.
Max, I hope this group does work in the public interest. As far as the rest goes, our government officials need to be held accountable. The existing network has been in place since long before I even got here and has not been used for the greatest benefit of the public. Read the rest of the articles and you will find everything from public record request violations through blatant protection of big telecom. At council meetings, on camera, in e-mails, and more. This issues is much bigger than I am. Mayor Linville said to one public broadband proponent, “if we do anything it will be a public/private partnership with AT&T.”
After seeing the red carpet rolled out for big telecom reps. that the public didn’t want there to be in the first place, I do doubt if this group can accomplish much. Still, I just wanted it to be formed with some sense and for the poor and public broadband to have competent representation. The libraries also should have been represented. They are actually providing some service to the COB public network for our citizens and they had to seek other funding since the COB wouldn’t help them out. This is something the rest of the COB has resisted for years even though they have an existing network.
Just wait until you ask Eric for details on the existing network, even ones that don’t present a security risk, and we’ll talk again.
Anyway, I’ve given you pathways to get a lot of the evidence you’re after. But in the end, a lot of this is common sense too. We have an existing network, the big telecom connections are awful and cost too much, we need fiber to address virtually all of our social and economic needs in the future and especially now, and our officials sat on it instead. That’s unacceptable.
At best, it will be over a year since the lockdown when the COB takes any action. Offering access to the public network should have been part of a pandemic response. This is also something myself, and a small team, offered to help with. So it wasn’t a staffing issue. Eric just didn’t want to do it and Seth and Michael were unwilling to hold him accountable.
Also, let’s not pretend that COVID slowed them down. Their COVID response was pitiful and providing better connectivity should have been part of a proper response anyway, especially with teams of expert citizen volunteers waiting to help. Upper Echelon staff at the COB, in IT and Public Works, simply didn’t care since they’re largely unaffected by the issue. This is a great example of the Digital Divide in action.
Kris KeillorJan 10, 2021
Hello NW Citizen community 😊
I want to respond first to my brief review as an appointee to the Broadband Advisory Workgroup (BAW). It is true that I am launching a community broadband project. This project has the support of Althea by Hawk Networks and the Northwest Broadband Alliance. Fortunately, the neighborhood we are serving is the unincorporated community of Van Wyck.
Van Wyck is outside Bellingham city limits and therefore, does not present a conflict of interest for a city working group. That could have easily been explained if the NW Citizen has reached out to me more comprehensively before publishing this bitter article.
I thank Michael for our broad and frank interview regarding the BAW and Maximillian for his impassioned defense. Jon, without saying you didn’t reach out, I didn’t get the message. This thread is very heated. During my interview I stressed my experience in leadership - group decision making and brainstorming, civic “tabletop exercises” regarding disaster response command, and public facing communication. These skills will be put to their full use by me as a mediator and synthesizer of the BAW’s work.
Our city, county, state, bioregion, and world demand better performance and cooperation to solve these issues of access. I believe telecoms have valuable technical experience. I also know public money for broadband has not always been spent to produce effective results.
The city council, utility companies, county government, and the public all ultimately desire the same: connectivity. We can’t forget social accessibility and technical design are fundamental to realizing that desire. All our institutions have many skills to contribute, and I look forward to lending mine - de-escalating, sharing, and synthesizing the conversation.
Jon HumphreyJan 10, 2021
Kristopher, thanks for your work in our community. I’ve been hoping to connect with you about helping you with your community fiber project. At the end of the day I really like to do physical work that leads to results. I was also just hoping to talk to you about your experiences and share information.
” The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”—Spock
Maximillian CarperJan 10, 2021
Jon, I appreciate your response. Here’s my reply:
Jon HumphreyJan 11, 2021
Max, the owners of this site lock articles from editing at a certain point to maintain integrity. You have done a good job of voicing your concerns in the comments and they are available to the public. You need to read my articles before I’ll respond further. I will not reinvent the wheel for you as I’ve already invested considerable time in writing my articles and more (with a focus on documentation) and will focus, as always, on our community. I only have so much time.
For example, I talk about the Digital Divide and my commitment to it in my presentation at LinuxFest which I shared with the council. I mention the Digital Divide often in my e-mails to our COB officials, the community, my articles and more. Closing the Digital Divide is my primary motivation for working on this issue. Eric, Marty, the mayor and council are well aware of this. I’ve spoken with Michael, Gene, Pinky, Hannah, Seth, Marty, Eric, Garrett, Mark, April (I can keep going) about the importance of closing the Digital Divide. Seth came to my house for a broadband party and I spent much of the time in my PowerPoint presentation talking about the Digital Divide. Satpal was there too. I even hired a sign language interpreter for one of our guests via the internet and I recount the experience in an article. Anyway, I have given you a way to find the evidence you seek.
Yes, an IT director hired to hold the hand of big telecom shows that the city expected to do that instead of remain open minded and pursue better solutions. Marty spent years negotiating the CenturyLink agreement. That means, at her salary, she spent at least half a million dollars of tax payer money negotiating for inferior connections with multi-billion dollar companies that never provided us with the services we needed at a reasonable price, etc. Even Gene Knutson, noted how hard the telecoms can be to work with. https://nwcitizen.com/entry/12-questions-gene-knutson-interview Imagine how much further ahead we would be if we worked on public broadband instead of holding the hands of multi-billion dollar corporations that ultimately gave us terrible solutions at high prices.
A person that builds their career off of working with big telecom is going to be biased towards protecting their interests. It’s why it’s crazy to have any big telecom reps. as part of the group at all. Their skills aside, they simply can’t be objective and protect their bottom line. Since we live close to successful public fiber networks why did we exclude public broadband pros while making room for private companies? It doesn’t make any sense and they all have conflicts of interest. As far as my work experience goes, what did you think I was doing when I was working on networks? Just because I didn’t list all of the buzz words you wanted doesn’t mean I wasn’t working with and learning about networks. It also doesn’t mean that the public fiber side of the argument should have been excluded. One of the best books written on fiber, “Fiber” by Susan Crawford, was written by an investigative journalist. Are you going to say that it isn’t valuable too and that her extensive credentials don’t matter? Because she can make a better argument than any COB official for the value of modern networks.
Also, it is easier than ever for people to become familiar with networking. For example, the FOA is offering certifications via fiberu.org during the pandemic.
NWCitizen ManagementJan 11, 2021
Max, you can easily list all articles by Jon in the right column. Simly go to the drop down menu of “Citizen Journalists” and select Jon’s name. Give the system 10 seconds and it will list all of Jon’s articles for you. All 41 of his articles, going back to 2017 when he wrote his first article for NWCitizen, “Case For Public Owned Fiber System”. As you click on any one article to read it, the list will remain frozen, making it easy to browse different articles by Jon.
The system even colors your selected article in the right column of the moment in a transparent purple haze, making it easy for you to find your place in the long list when you want to check a different article.
Dianne FosterJan 11, 2021
I’ve been following this issue for years, am part of the “Stop 5G Bellingham” Facebook Group, and a regular donor to Washington for Safe Technology website, where thousands of peer-reviewed articles on the dangers of 5G are available. I organized the Stop 5G Bellingham rally 2 weeks ago downtown, with social distancing and masks. I am a recovering cancer patient who does not want 5G in my community, and a member of Occupy Bellingham who sponsored the event. We will continue these quarterly events planned as global opposition to 5G and low-orbit satellites, not only for their threat to human health, but to insects, ecosystems, and climate - much more urgent priorities. There are participants from Norway to India; the next one will be on the autumnal equinox, started by Norwegian activist Ragna Heffermehl.
The State of New Hampshire paid a commission to “Study the Environmental and Health Effects of Evolving 5G Technology”- and made 15 recommendations to the Governor: first of all, no WiFi in schools.
The U.S. Toxicology Program, 16-year, $30 million dollar study, showed that there are a wide range of statistically significant DNA damage, brain and heart tumors, infertility, and other ailments from Electrosmog. Why are these ignored by the Trump FCC? Because that body is run by corporations like telecoms, and was no different under Democrats either.
Eric Johnston was fired from his previous job in Port Townsend for corruption; why did Bellingham pick him up? Is our system just as corrupt?
And Max, did you ever look up all the videos Jon referred to as evidence? Nothing makes me crazier as a decades-long nurse-practitioner than someone looking at evidence and saying there is none. REALLY?