Letter to the Editor: Is Lewis County’s Fiber Optic Cable Plan Wasting Money on ‘Horse and Buggy’ Technology

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Just 20 years ago, 99% of all households had a telephone landline. Never in our wildest dreams could we conceive that cellphones would replace 70% of these now ancient landlines.   

I fully agree everyone should have inexpensive access to the internet; however, we should be looking to today’s technology.

Data transmission through fiber optics is at lightning speeds but you are faced with tremendous challenges to serve those in remote forested and hilly areas.  

I live less than ¼ mile outside Centralia city limits. I can’t access the internet with either copper or fiber optic lines. My options are satellite transmission or dish-to-tower transmission.  

Five years ago, satellite transmission was painfully slow because the signal had to be bounced off a satellite that is 20,000 miles in space. My other option was to install a radio dish that communicates with a tower within line of sight.  

All of those challenges are being solved by low orbit satellites. These satellites are flying only 30 miles in space which will allow for much faster data transmission. Elon Musk (Tesla) created SpaceX, a satellite company headquartered in Redmond. SpaceX has already launched 1,800 satellites and plans to launch up to 11,000 more within the next two years. SpaceX plans to provide internet access around the world within five years.

Washington state is one of the few areas in the U.S. that SpaceX (Starlink broadband) has coverage from just over 700 satellites currently in orbit serving a narrow band around the northern U.S. border. The cost is $99.00 per month. There is currently a waiting list.  

There are 15 to 20 other satellite companies around the world that plan to do the same. This means the cost of satellite service will come down because of competition. In five years, the entire world will be able to access high speed internet service.  

My question is, why is Lewis County even entertaining a technology that cannot and will not serve all the people? Technology is advancing at breakneck speed. We should be looking at new technology — not old.

In 10 years, our laptops will be functioning as a satellite dish. We will have an internet connection while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

Lewis County is planning to spend $130 million of our tax money. Surely they can find better infrastructure projects that will create an equal number of local jobs with longer lasting benefits.   

I hope the PUD will be able to explain how Lewis County residents that are blocked by forests or are behind mountains are going to be served by this fiber optic concept.  

Dale Luger,

Centralia