Washington lawmaker says letting government offer internet ‘gives us another option’

Jan 28, 2021, 5:52 PM
broadband internet, remote learning...
Third grade teacher Cara Denison speaks with students virtually while live streaming her class via Google Meet at Rogers International School on Nov. 19, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Do you hate your internet provider? Or maybe you’re one of many people who only have one option to choose from? So here’s a question for you: How would you feel about a government option for your internet? Representative Drew Hansen of Kitsap County is the sponsor of a new bill in Olympia that would allow local government to offer broadband internet.

Internet access proves necessary to ‘participate in life’ during pandemic

“We have a lot of people in this state who just either don’t have high speed internet access at all, or they have it and it’s expensive, and it’s not very good,” Hansen explained. “We had a hearing yesterday on this bill, and we heard people from all over the state, like a mom in the Spokane Valley who has a special needs kid who, you know, she’s got to drive some place to get fast enough internet to testify at the hearing. People in rural Washington and forested areas who have no internet at all.”

“And here’s the weird part,” Hansen continued. “Washington is one of a minority of states that says governments like public utility districts or ports just can’t provide internet access, it’s illegal to customers, to normal customers like you or me.”

While Hansen admits he’s not sure if government provided broadband internet would work in every situation, he believes they should at least be able to try.

This bill also wouldn’t only benefit people in rural areas.

“It potentially benefits everybody,” he said. “… The Port of Seattle came, they signed in to testify in support of my bills, one of the port commissioners. The restriction effects public utility districts and ports all around the state. And this is the kind of thing where there’s economies of scale, right? The bigger the entity that could be providing the service, probably the more likely it is that they could make it pencil out economically.”

“Take my district, Kitsap County, we’re kind of rural, we’re kind of urban, we’re kind of suburban. It’s not like we’re 10,000 miles away from anything. Kitsap County is dying to have this authority,” Hansen said. “They think they can pull this off. And so that’s the whole point of the bill is just why can’t they try? At least remove the restriction, let them try to provide broadband to the public. And if it works, great. If it doesn’t, we’re no worse off than we are right now.”

One criticism or pushback to this idea, Ursula points out, is that some people don’t trust that the government will really do a better job. Hansen says he has an easy answer to that.

“[In] a majority of states in this country, they allow the government to provide unrestricted broadband,” he said. “And that includes not just liberal states, but conservative states. … And what they find on average is when the government starts providing this service, cost goes down and speed goes up.”

Which, he says, is something we could all use. Everyone would benefit from cheaper internet at faster speeds, Hansen said.

“At the very least, it gives us another option. Again, at the worst, OK, they can’t make it work, big deal. You’re stuck with whatever it is you have now,” he added.

Another argument is that it would cost money for the government to buy the land, the cable, and build the infrastructure needed to make this happen.

“For sure,” Hansen said. “And I think there is federal money available to make this easier. That’s what my people in Kitsap County told us, and so that will give them some help. But no question, right? It’s an expensive proposition. That’s probably the reason that some of the infrastructure isn’t there now. But again, if it’s expensive, … and they can’t figure out a way to make it pencil out, OK, fine, they just won’t offer it.”

Taking away the restrictions doesn’t solve the whole problem, Hansen admits, but taking them away at least allows for the opportunity to try to solve the problem with whatever federal money or “anything that they could get their hands on to help them.”

Seattle CEO: GameStop stock controversy has implications that go beyond Wall Street

For those people, who as Gee points out, don’t want the government involved, but also don’t want to be forced to use one internet provider, Hansen says no one would be forced to use any particular service, rather it would just be another option.

“You’re not going to be forced to use government anything,” he said. “But if the government can come in and give you an option, then you’re not forced to use whoever your existing bad, expensive internet provider is. You might have … some more choices. That’s I think what we all can come together on and want.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Gee and Ursula Show

Gee and Ursula

Gee and Ursula Show

Superintendent: More ‘issues with adults’ over masking rule than students

The state Superintendent says things are going "pretty darn well" as schools reopened. He credits that success to COVID rules, which include masking.
2 days ago
Vaccine mandate...
Gee and Ursula Show

With Washington’s vaccine mandate deadline imminent, a minority chooses resignation

KIRO Radio speaks with the minority coalition which has decided to take a stand against the vaccine mandate and accept termination or resignation.
3 days ago
students, vaccine...
Gee and Ursula Show

State Superintendent says any future vaccine mandate for students will be ‘statewide’

The state Superintendent of Public Instruction says there won't be a vaccine mandate for students until there's full federal approval of a vaccine for kids.
4 days ago
Seattle City Attorney abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, candidate...
Gee and Ursula Show

‘I didn’t think anybody took me that seriously,’ Seattle candidate says about anti-police tweets

Seattle city attorney candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy tells Gee and Ursula how she would run the office and responds to tweets she posted in 2020.
10 days ago
Kenneth Wilson...
Gee and Ursula Show

Seattle Council Position 8 candidate Kenneth Wilson takes aim at incumbent Mosqueda

The challenger for Position 8, Kenneth Wilson, claims his technical expertise as a civil engineer will be crucial for infrastructure development.
11 days ago
vaccine side effect...
Gee and Ursula Show

Virologist: Death toll from COVID for at-risk group is higher than from rare J&J side effect

Dr. Angela Rassmussen explains why we shouldn't be too worried about a rare side effect of the J&J vaccine, though it is still a sad and serious outcome.
12 days ago

Sponsored Articles


How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Washington lawmaker says letting government offer internet ‘gives us another option’