PSE (Puget Sound Energy) Pocketing Your Maintenance Fees

So another example in my long list of why monopolies of any kind are never a good idea and we need more public infrastructure again focuses on Puget Sound Energy. Recently a City of Bellingham truck backed into a poll at very low speed. Normally this would not have been much of an issue, but PSE doesn’t do a good job maintaining their poles and other infrastructure so it was. They also have recently raised the rate they are charging people to hang wires from their poles. You would think this is because they have a great network of poles, but it’s actually just because they are stealing from you via maintenance fees. They collect the fees and then do nothing to maintain their infrastructure. This poll snapped and fell over because it was so old and rotted out that if you breathed on it incorrectly it wold have fallen over. If you look closely you can even see a wasp’s next in here. The post to its left has so many holes in it that it looks like swiss cheese. Most of these poles are also in a high wind areas, and obviously many of the poles are in terrible shape and should have been replaced a long time ago, so it would make sense to bury the cabling. PSE always says this is too expensive to do, but that’s only because we don’t actually hold them accountable for all of the problems that their lack of maintenance causes lost work hours, ruined food, damaged electronic equipment, the list goes on. In fact, our regulation of them is so toothless that they don’t have to reimburse you at all unless you’ve lost power for 5 days and then they only have to give you 50 dollars. Just like with the telecom companies, our government has created a system that allows these monopolies to rob you blind and doesn’t even hold them accountable for maintaining their own infrastructure even though they charge their customers maintenance fees. Of course, our council includes members that work for PSE like Pinky Vargas so I’m sure nothing will be done about this in the near future. Still, it’s pretty obvious from the photo that the last time this pole was a live tree dinosaurs roamed the earth. I’m sure they’ll say it was just an oversight.

City of Bellingham Washington’s Backdoor, Fascist, CenturyLink Deal

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet must treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. — Wikipedia

The COB officials kept saying it over and over again. “It’s a Cable TV deal, not an internet deal. We regulate Cable TV, not the internet. That’s done at the state level.” Here’s what they didn’t tell you.

CenturyLink recently signed a deal with our very corrupt Mayor Kelli Linville and our equally corrupt city council. According to the COB, it was supposedly just a Cable TV deal for PRISM TV services with CenturyLink, one of the most fascist, irresponsible, hated companies in history and for good reason. One of those reasons is that they have been on the front lines of fighting against Net Neutrality and for the right to censor information. This behavior is part of the reason that Net Neutrality was established by the Obama Administration in the first place. President Obama was a member of the Democratic party, the same party that represents and even endorses most of our local candidates.

The City didn’t just sign a deal with CenturyLink. They assigned staff, at our expense, to the 18 billion dollar company to help them come in and then used a 2nd provider clause to help them avoid even the small amount of regulation that was placed on Comcast. So basically, they came in with no regulation.

The COB also did not seriously investigate other options, even though one of the most successful public fiber networks is literally next door in Mount Vernon and they offered to share information. The COB public works director, Ted Carlson, even threatened, on behalf of Puget Sound energy, to end the one meeting they had with two local public fiber experts because they were using PSE as an example of poor infrastructure.  Brian Heinreich, the deputy administrator, showed up late to the meeting and then refused to share any of the information from it with the council. By this point, they were already deep into giving CentuyLink corporate welfare to come into the community. Apparently an 18 Billion dollar company needs our help to figure out how to operate here and they need us to do it at our own expense.

The mayor would not give a public option the time of day, even laughing the city’s own attorney off stage when he suggested they should go over the exceptions being made for CenturyLink by the COB. The council joined her in this laughter right after Michael Lilliquist implied that it was silly and told James Erb, the city’s very hard working attorney, that he could sit down. It seems that the mayor and council considered this deal to be a joke, or the public too stupid to care about or even understand what was going on. CenturyLink sent four lawyers to this meeting just in case any pesky people from the community showed up.

The PRISM TV service is served over a small amount of fiber, but paired with the loss of Net Neutrality, they can prioritize any traffic they see fit. Meaning that when you go to test your connection at a speed test site your traffic will be prioritized too, often giving you a false positive, but it gets even better. This kind of behavior is why CenturyLink is in the middle of a class action lawsuit in King County.

The day after signing the “TV” contract with CenturyLink Kelli Linville personally killed a report that was being put together on other private internet options in the area even though it was near completion. She as also delayed a report being put together on public options, as far as anyone can tell, indefinitely. So they keep saying it’s a Cable TV contract, but they keep treating it like an internet solution. Of course, they skirted over the details about how CenturyLink’s low-income options tend to be a joke and how their services still cost about 10 times what they do in other developed countries. They also ignored the fact that they cost 3 times what they do even in other parts of the US like Kansas City. They laughed again at the idea of wiring up the whole city with fiber even though this would cost about 1/5th of what they’ve already spent on the ill advised Waterfront project and even though the network would pay for its own expansion if installed correctly. In fact, a public network could be started with as little as $300,000 and could support dozens of local providers.

Of course all of this information was sent to the mayor and the council before the July 24th meeting. They had 2 odd meetings. A 1pm meeting where the public was not allowed to ask any questions and a 7pm meeting where the public could make brief statements, but the council never took any anti-CenturyLink information under consideration.

In fact, Roxanne Murphy and Pinky Vargas gushed over CenturyLink, thanking them for coming into our town. Both said the opposite at a Young Democrats meeting to get their endorsement. Pinky was asked specifically if she supported Net Neutrality which she said she did but at the July 24th meeting she then backed up and gushed over one of the most Anti-Net Neutral, and therefore anti-first amendment companies in history, CenturyLink. Roxanne had an equally poor showing saying she would support the same kind of infrastructure they had in Tacoma and specifically public infrastructure, but then telling CenturyLink how she has been a customer of their for years, and will wait as long as necessary to get their services.

The city says that CenturyLink can not discriminate economically but has effectively given them every means to do so. CenturyLink simply is not going to go into communities that don’t have a “certain kind of infrastructure” meaning they will mostly be going into newer, wealthier communities. So their business practices will result in economic discrimination, just not in a way they can be legally held accountable for.

Also, if it was just a cable TV contract then why did the Bellingham Herald run two articles on CenturyLink’s behalf. One highlighting it as an interent service?

Their second defense is that CenturyLink could have sued them if they didn’t let them come in. Well we pay for lawyers to be on the COB staff and since doing business with a company that is attacking the first amendment is against our code of ethics we could have easily defended against this.

Of course this won’t address any of our social concerns. When asked what CenturyLink was doing about North Bellingham by Dan Hamill they refused to answer his question. Dan of course voted for them anyway because he’s corrupt.

Now I know people hate it when you make references to the Nazi’s. Almost as if we’ve been programmed to have that knee jerk response, but the parallels between Anti-Net Neutral companies like CenturyLink, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and most of our providers and governments nationwide and the Nazi’s are inescapable.

Most people think the Nazi’s were socialists, but the system they actually pushed for was a system with a bunch of trusted companies working closely with the government. They wanted the government to be stronger than corporations but in the end their goals were met as long as these two entities were stronger than the people. They all agreed that they needed to have control of the media to control the people like they do now because we don’t really have other options in Bellingham. Similar behavior like this has all been well documented in a book called “Rise of the Fourth Reich” by Jim Marrs.

All of this so the city doesn’t have to establish a Dig Once policy to install inexpensive conduit, improve their existing infrastructure, and give you real options via a publicly owned, net-neutral, internet system. I don’t know about you, but something smells pretty bad down at city hall to me. Nothing is more important in a free society than the free flow of information and your government consistently chooses to backup companies that have fought for the right to censor the information you receive and charge you the most per MBit of data in the developed world.

CenturyLink has confirmed in an e-mail sent to me by Marty Mullholland, the city’s IT director, that they will not be providing better service to the county. They also have confirmed that they have the right to pull out of Bellingham if they do not get 20% of users within 5 years and they will not even establish a local office if they do not get 30%. Even Comcast gives us a local office with a lower percentage of users. So basically if they don’t get a monopoly of some kind they will not take us seriously as a community.
Historically the cable companies don’t actually compete with each other. They establish territories and no real competition takes place. This is partially due to the fact that content providers set the rates for what their content will cost. Think of it in regards to how the oil industry works. OPEC sets the overall cost of oil. Sure, you may have a Mobil and a Shell station in the same town but their rate for fuel will only vary by a few cents.
This dependence on fuel can be totally replaced by creating better infrastructure for charging electric cars, which have many advantages, but pressure from the oil companies and our government’s lack of interest in creating real infrastructure keeps that from happening. The same thing is happening with broadband.
Content providers have tried to slow down the expansion of Google Fiber by originally double charging them to provide the same content as other providers like by stating that Google was a non-traditional provider. Even with all of this Google provides TV and Gigabit internet services for $100 a month in Kansas City. Google has already decided not to come to Bellingham for many reasons that would require a separate article to explore.
All of this so that we can continue to not improve our infrastructure and continue to pay ten times the rate for internet that they do in other developed countries. With a truly good internet connection you would not need separate TV services. In fact, you don’t now. Here is a breakdown of the cost of internet and TV by country. Keep in mind that their speeds are also about 10 times better down and 100 times better up than most of you can get in Bellingham. We pay the highest price for internet per MBit in the developed world.
Kansas City (Gigabit Internet $70 with TV $100)
Japan (Gigabit Internet $25.50)
Hong Kong (Gigibit Internet $24)
Sling TV (Starts at $20)
So if you were able to get internet at an affordable rate and wanted TV you could pair it with something like a Sling package and pay less than half of what CenturyLink wants to charge you. There simply is no excuse for the rates that we pay and our lack of infrastructure. Pair that with the Anti-Net Neutral stance of most of Bellingham’s providers and there is no excuse for not at least perusing a public option to create real competition, address our social and economic issues, protect ourselves from content censorship, and drive down cost.