Hillsboro’s Public Fiber Success Could Be Ours, If We Push

Hillsboro Oregon’s higher median income and lower cost of living could be ours if we push our public officials into public fiber internet.

Hillsboro Oregon’s higher median income and lower cost of living could be ours if we push our public officials into public fiber internet.


Many towns around the U.S. are building and/or expanding their public fiber networks and providing their residents with much better service than the big telecoms for much lower prices. Hillsboro, OR is now joining the many other forward-thinking towns that want to increase quality of life for their citizens now and in the future. Check out the Hillsboro network page. Unfortunately, the “forward-thinking towns” list still does NOT include Bellingham or Whatcom County. Even though, I remind everyone again, the City of Bellingham has an existing public fiber network that the public has already paid for, still, City Hall refuses to give the public access to it.

Why write about Hillsboro specifically with so many others across the country installing public fiber? Hillsboro is a good comparison to Bellingham. At about the same size, the cost of living is lower because median household income is higher due to great paying jobs. Specifically, they offer access to many more next-generation tech jobs than we do, with companies like Intel and Xerox, because they have an established tech capability and are rapidly building out their fiber infrastructure. Hi-tech workers and everyone else in Hillsboro can enjoy broadband that compliments and enhances their lifestyles and jobs. Their expanded public network will attract even more next-gen jobs and help Hillsboro address most of their social and economic concerns too.

So what was the reaction of our elected officials and political establishment when I pointed out this development in Hillsboro? Crickets. Our elected officials no longer speak to us honestly in public. In fact, the best way to describe their communication approach is cowardly. When they’ve got something to say, or want to shut some topic down, they get others to do it on their behalf.

In this case, the Democrats had a party representative, Todd Lagastee, attack my articles on NWCitizen.com. He didn’t have the knowledge to do it successfully, but he tried. Lagastee likely did this for the entire Corporate Democrat establishment because I publicly identified ties between the Corporate Dems and big telecom. I say it’s “likely” based on the Dems habit of insulating themselves from wrongdoing by refusing to have any real dialogue with the public. It’s how they roll. They call it, “controlling the narrative.” It’s way easier than doing any real, measurable, or significant work. To be fair, the Republicans haven’t done well on these issues either.

Our PUD has started referring everyone to Comcast or WAVE for backhaul, the side of the network that communicates with the global Internet. PUD Commissioner Grant ran on a platform backing public broadband, but apparently she has actually been in the pocket of big telecom the whole time, as evidenced by her insistence on hiring an openly pro-big-telecom general manager for the PUD several months ago. 

Remember the Nooksack Starlink project? Turned out to be a disaster because Commissioner Grant and County Executive Satpal Sidhu insisted on backing it up with overpriced WAVE fiber instead of challenging WAVE and installing public fiber resources. Many experts told them it was doomed. Even Elon Musk said the entire country needed more fiber on the ground to make Starlink work well, but nothing and nobody was going to convince Sidhu or Grant. Once a decision is made, regardless of other proof, they refuse to respond and delay change or progress as long as possible.

My most useful observation about our political parties is that you should look at them like advertising agencies. You know, like the ones in Mad Men. You see, they don’t actually care if things work correctly or candidates do what they say. Their goal is to get people to “buy it,” to get candidates elected. So if they can put a bunch of wires in a turd, get someone to sign up for that service, and claim it is progress in order to get a corrupt official elected, that’s what they’ll do. It’s up to us to keep holding them accountable and demanding real progress. To let them know we realize this is not a new issue and we notice that they’re intentionally dragging their feet on progress at a critical stage in our country’s history. 

But I guess we'll just add Hillsboro to the long list of towns that are better places to live, especially if you're a young STEM student or worker. Because here in Bellingham/Whatcom County, we just can’t get past the good ol’ boy, you scratch my back, generations-deep corruption. And the best our officials have to offer is apparently lies and bullying and foot-dragging. Unless, of course, you’re a big-spender candidate-donor, and then whatever you want is for sale. 

So unless we push, our politicians will continue to do what they always do: say nothing definitive and do nothing significant. Oh, and after decades of waiting for progress, they’ll tell us, “Things take time, and it could be at least another 15 years…” You know, on top of the last 40 years we’ve waited, seeing nothing but promises and no real progress. 

May I remind you all, once again, that Mount Vernon and Anacortes already have public fiber networks, too.

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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