The above Tacomic, by Tacoma's RR Anderson, illustrates the absurdity of the entire proposed plan to lease Tacoma's Click! network out to Wave, a Kirkland based for-profit telecommunications company, for 40 years. In his own words, RR Anderson writes
Crybaby Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU) says CLICK! needs upgrades and oh by the way is losing tons of money because yeah Cable TV sucks a big one and nobody wants to pay for an outhouse full of channels they never watch... SOLUTION?! Sell control for FORTY GOD DAMN YEARS to some Kirkland, WASH. ding dongs that customers hate just as much as Comcast? So dumb. Yeah maybe sell off cable TV, who cares? But INTERNETS should stay with the city. While we're at it, why not sell INTERNETS CLICK! DIRECT? Why must we deal with these idiot ISPs like dumb middle man Advance Stream, dumb Rainier Connect and The other dumb one? WHY!? EVEN SO, this cartoon is an illustrated TRUE STORY of a CLICK! public comment news tribune story.
I honestly couldn't say it better myself, but because this is a blog and that's why you're here, I'm certainly going to attempt it.
Tacoma isn't the only City in the country that offers broadband internet and cable TV to its residents on a municipally owned network, and it certainly doesn't offer the fastest service. Tacoma's Click! isn't even the cheapest option all of the time, as the field starts to narrow when you approach higher speed tiers. While Click! is showing its age and could probably use some upgrades, using potential upgrades to pressure a city into making a 40 year decision in 60 days is insulting and ridiculous.
Click! has problems. It is currently being pillaged by fees from content providers for the television portion of its business model, and this is unsustainable. While the numbers provided by Tacoma Public Utilities are likely inflated, the fact of the matter is that Click! is being subsidized by power subscribers—this isn't good, but what can they do?
The answer, and solution, to that question is not simple. There is no way to solve the problem without first hurting someone's feelings. Do we drop television service entirely while keeping internet for the masses? Or, do we lease our network to Wave and reap the benefits of upgrades promised under a lease agreement that won't actually benefit Tacoma for another 40 years?
The cable industry is changing. Television service for all cable providers has been losing subscribers for a few years now, and it is showing in the huge increases of fees placed upon the cable networks. People are "cutting the cord", so to speak, and the networks are hurting. But do we need to hurt with them? Of course we don't. If Tacoma cannot compete with them, then Tacoma should not try. Tacoma doesn't have the same budget as Comcast, or Wave and never will—we cannot afford to provide television service on the backs of our power subscribers, so we should't.
Click! should move entirely to an internet model. Click! should use the money it is hemorrhaging on television to make the upgrades it's broadband network needs, and upgrade speeds for all Tacoma residents. Tacoma is never going to get nice things, if Tacoma doesn't furnish itself with them. We are a hard working city, but we are tired of working hard to get the service we deserve from large for-profit telecommunications companies. If Tacoma signs this deal with Wave, we will be going backwards in time. Cities around the world are moving towards municipally owned broadband and there is a good reason for it. People need affordable internet service to succeed in 2015—Click! can be that service, Tacoma just needs to stop its bitching and find a real solution to its funding issue.
If our mayor can propose a plan to raise 500 million dollars to fix streets, why isn't she strong enough to find a way to fix Tacoma's biggest asset? Click! sets Tacoma apart. Google is never going to come save us from Comcast or Wave, so we have to save ourselves. Why isn't anybody pointing out that Wave and Comcast have almost no overlap in their service areas?1 What kind of agreements does Wave have with Comcast to prevent them from providing service in lucrative areas around the state? What will Wave's relationship with Comcast do to Wave in Tacoma? How can we be sure Wave will actually compete in our area, instead of just bending over for Comcast—an already established provider in the area—to protect its monopoly over a large swath of the Seattle area?