did you know that it is illegal for a city in washington state to operate a telecommunication utility that provides services to end-users?
the first few paragraphs of RCW 54.16.33:
(1) A public utility district in existence on June 8, 2000, may construct, purchase, acquire, develop, finance, lease, license, handle, provide, add to, contract for, interconnect, alter, improve, repair, operate, and maintain any telecommunications facilities within or without the district's limits for the following purposes:
(a) For the district's internal telecommunications needs; and
(b) For the provision of wholesale telecommunications services within the district and by contract with another public utility district.
Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to authorize public utility districts to provide telecommunications services to end users.
in other words, a municipality may only build a network's physical structure; but they have to lease operation of that system to a private entity to make it available to end-users.
i think that there are too few operators and providers in seattle, and that it has led to companies like comcast fixing internet and teevee prices at arbitrarily high rates. so i was researching what happened to mike mcginn's 2009 campaign pledge to provide citywide broadband to seattle. my thought is that if we, the people, had a municipal broadband network, comcast would be forced to reduce their prices to reasonable levels.
it turns out that since 2009, seattle has laid over 500 miles of fiber optic cable. however, because of the RCW, seattle can only contract its use to private providers like comcast. pioneer square got fiber optic internet service in 2011 - but end-users can only buy that service through comcast, because they won an "open" bid process, much like they did with the city's coaxial cable network.
does anyone else here believe that the state law is wrong? it seems to have been penned to favor big telecom companies and their arbitrary rate-setting. the conspiracy theorist in me believes that it's a tool to protect comcast's profits in the 23rd largest city in america.
in contrast, tacoma's click! network - built and operated by tacoma power - was one of the first municipal telecommunication systems in the country. their service predates the RCW, which was written in 2000, so they're "grandfathered" in. and you know what? comcast's prices in tacoma are significantly lower than they are in seattle because they are competing with click!
shouldn't we repeal this barrier to commerce that is RCW 54.16.33? shouldn't we have more choices in supposedly tech-savvy seattle? and - if nothing else - shouldn't we be more aware of and engaged in how the city awards these telecommunication contracts?