I recently attended a Baw Faw Grange meeting in Boistfort where the topic was lack of rural access to high speed Internet.
This is a subject close to my heart as I experience the problem frequently in my Winlock community.
One of the attendees, Mary Mallonee, asked two of the best questions: “Isn’t Internet service a utility? Why can’t we have service like we get from the PUD?”
A representative from the PUD was present and explained that state law prevents our PUD from providing us “last mile” service.
Other speakers said that they had spoken to legislators who advised them that the private communication companies would spend whatever it takes to lobby and litigate against having to serve underserved areas or allow public entities such as our PUD to provide such service.
That answer should not stand.
By ourselves, Lewis County residents have little chance of changing legislation or persuading the Washington Utilities and Transportation Committee to require equal service and rates.
But we are not alone. All across the state there are counties and communities just like us who are not being served creating a “Have, Have Not” dynamic.
However, we are not without options. The “Have Not” counties have commissioners, Legislators, and Congressional representatives. The need for high speed Internet extends beyond jurisdictional and political party lines. If we work together with our fellow “Have Nots,” we should be able solve this problem.
The point is not to take “no” for an answer.
Baw Faw Grange members voted to ask their county and State Grange to make high speed Internet its priority project. The State Grange would be an important ally.
The key is developing a statewide coalition of the “Have Nots”.
In the nineteenth century prosperity required access to railroads. In the twentieth century paved roads became a necessity.
Today the need is communication. Those who have it prosper. Those who don’t, wither.
Our PUD should have the opportunity to provide a service we need. Our request to our government for this Internet service option should be: “Equal Service, Equal Rates, Equal Opportunity.” Anything less is not a solution.
Dr. Lindsey Remund Pollock