Washington Considers Public Broadband Bridge Bill


The Washington legislature is looking at a bill that would let existing municipal and county broadband networks provide limited service to individual residents. Under current state law, government-backed broadband networks can only provide wholesale service, leaving individuals to contend with cable companies even if they reside closer to an existing public network.

Under the terms of the new bill, local public networks would be able to provide service if a private sector provider was either unwilling or unable to set up a subscription. This essentially allows for already available public networks to act as a bridge provider where there are gaps in service.

State Senator Christine Rolfes of Kitsap who is sponsoring the bill, says that allowing limited retail use of public networks doesn’t require a major change in telecom policy, and equalizes broadband access in areas that may be underserved.

Consumerist also pointed to the story of a local Washington resident who almost had to sell his house and incurred significant legal expenses to get broadband service for his home office after Comcast and CenturyLink both lied about being able to connect his house. This particular story is not new, CivSource has previously reported on ghost networks with Verizon and AT&T. States and municipalities aren’t consistent when it comes to doing network audits to determine if fiber lines actually exist where telecom providers say that they do. More and more, these ghost networks are starting to be found out.

However, that hasn’t stopped private sector providers from a coordinated legislative effort to block the creation of new public networks.

The full text of the bill is available here.