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Letters from the Community

 

January 2, 2019



Waiting Forever on the Last Mile

Let me begin with this:

Klickitat County is a great place to live. The nearly 50 years that I’ve lived in the Valley of the little Klickitat have been rewarding in so many ways, that from the day that I arrived here, I knew that I had found a place that I would call home for the rest of my life.

That we are off the beaten path is why life is agreeable and lived at a slower pace here. There are few places where, when the boss asks why you were late for work, your answer can be, “I was held up by a cattle drive.” It is also a reason why, when you have trouble with a monopolistic public utility like our many past and present telephone service providers, they may not respond until you call the public utilities commissioner. I have had to do that at least twice, and although it was many years ago, the response I got from the offending provider informed me that they do not want to hear from that government official. The response was immediate, the issues resolved quickly with a personal apology from the manager.

That brings me to today. In today’s world, we have advanced to a place where access to high speed internet is vital. I don’t have to go into detail here; anyone whose life isn’t affected by the internet has opted out of living in this century.

When we first got connected to the internet, copper lines provided by our local telephone company provided the path. As content grew, the speed restrictions inherent in copper became an issue. The solution: fiberglass. So as demand grew for high speed internet, a frustrated public demanded that rural areas be included in highspeed internet. Bills by lawmakers were passed, fiberglass internet came—to everyone except for whom it wasn’t economically feasible to provide it. It’s been referred to as “the last mile.”

For most of us waiting in “the last mile,” we’ve watched contractors digging ditches, installing orange tubes for fiberglass, and putting up markers where the tubes have been installed along country roads. That happened, along with a terminal for the vital infrastructure, to within just a few miles from where we live. The problem is, that this occurred more than 20 years ago.

The big question all of us ask is, “How can it be feasible and reasonable to put in part of the infrastructure and not provide the equipment that would enable us to use and pay for it”?

Maddening is that the infrastructure for fiberglass is buried just a few miles away but is unused and unavailable. We, desperate for and needing the bandwidth that that equipment would provide, use and pay money to wireless providers who provide access, but with a bandwidth that is so limited it’s like driving the freeway with a car that will do no more than 30 miles an hour.

The obvious answer to this stalemate is that government passed laws to provide internet to everyone, money was provided to install fiberglass, contractors found ways to access the money, the project was started, access became available to everyone except those of us on “the last mile.”

Since the majority of the “frustrated voices” have been stilled, lawmakers can ignore those of us in “the last mile.” We can’t appeal to a public official that we aren’t being served; there is no controlling authority, and it is not that a public utility is dropping the ball.

I have no idea how those of us who are underserved in “the Last Mile” can resolve this issue. To see contractors putting in fiberglass infrastructure for over 20 years with no final resolution is maddening.

If there is a resolution in the works that none of us know about, I’d like to hear it. I’ve waited this long. At 83 years of age, I probably don’t have that many years to wait, but I want my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to appreciate living in the Valley of the Little Klickitat as much as I do. I doubt that they’ll be as patient.

Jim Link

Goldendale

 

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