The crowd was not as angry but it was no less passionate Thursday night during a meeting held to gauge opinions about a proposal to lease the city-owned Click network to a Kirkland broadband company for 40 years.
Two weeks ago, people shouted at city staffers and one person threw a polling device, called a clicker, onto the stage at Stadium High School.
Thursday night, people filed to the lectern in at the Tacoma Public Utilities auditorium and shared their thoughts. Many in the crowd were employees of Click, who stand to lose their union jobs if Wave or another company leases the network.
Daniel Jones said he loves the idea of a municipal fiber system. Like others who spoke after him, he questioned the math of officials who say the network loses around $9 million per year.
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“We would not have a proposal from Wave if it were not profitable,” Jones said. “It has the potential to be profitable. We should be asking why it is not profitable.”
About two dozen speakers were among 175 people who filled the room and stood along the walls. Many wore purple shirts that said “Stick with Click.” At times audience members clapped and cheered for opinions they agreed with, but they did not boo those they were against.
Beverly Bowen-Bennett, a self-described “Click network aficionado” said she didn’t think of using other providers because Click belongs to her, and all Tacoma residents. As an enthusiastic football fan, Bowen-Bennett said she pays extra for sports channels from Click.
“The day Click network gets sold is the day I will look elsewhere for a provider,” she said.
Shannon Constantine, an 18-year-old Bellarmine Preparatory School student, stepped to the lectern to try to express what the Internet means to her and her classmates.
The Internet, she said, is the “lifeblood of most millennials.”
“The Internet has become such an important utility for the people of my generation,” Constantine said. She said she was worried about what privatizing the Internet would do. “How are we going to continue to pay for what the United Nations has specifically determined is a universal human right?”
Bryan Flint, a Tacoma Public Utilities board member, told the crowd that the deal with Wave has not been decided. Local Internet service provider Rainier Connect also vowed to match Wave’s offer on Wednesday.
“Whatever the next steps are, they will be made available to the public and there will be more public discussion,” Flint said.
Strickland said the city needs to be responsible and consider all options. The city plans to survey Tacoma Power customers she said.
“It’s not about trying to push an idea. … What do you want? Do you want gigabit speed? Are you willing to pay for it?” Strickland asked the crowd. “What do we want this to do for our city? That’s the question. How do we make this a better city for business, for the people who work here, for education, and to make this a community of choice?”
Strickland said there will be more public meetings.