Business

Was dead man’s name signed to letter supporting net neutrality repeal?

As the federal debate over net neutrality rules peaked Thursday, Brian Haynes and his father, Skip, found themselves targeted by online conspiracy theorists.

The Haynes run Rainier Connect, an Eatonville-based internet and broadband service provider, originally founded in 1910 as a telephone company, with customers scattered through rural areas of Pierce County.

The alleged conspiracy grew out of a Dec. 12 letter sent to Federal Communications Commission leaders in advance of Thursday’s much-anticipated vote, which repealed Obama administration-era net neutrality regulations.

The letter, written on behalf of “smaller broadband companies serving rural and small-town America,” supported the repeal, contending that smaller providers would benefit.

It included signatures from owners of internet service providers across the country, including Arne L. Haynes, representing Rainier Connect, of Eatonville.

Suspicious sorts pounced, sending tips to The News Tribune noting that Arne Haynes, the company patriarch, died in 2011.

Suspicious sorts pounced, sending tips to The News Tribune noting that Arne Haynes, the company patriarch, died in 2011.

The tipsters overlooked that though the patriarch passed away, the Haynes family has more than one Arne. The elder Arne’s son, Skip, the company chairman, goes by his nickname, but he signed the letter to the FCC with his formal name: Arne, as in Junior.

Brian Haynes, the company’s CEO, joked about the family name during a Wednesday interview, thanking his father.

“He has blessed me with a life that I don’t have to go by ‘Arne,’ ” the younger Haynes said.

As for the net neutrality issue itself, Brian Haynes said his support for repeal doesn’t contradict his company’s stated commitment to an open internet, nor does it translate to charging broadband customers more for so-called “fast lanes,” as critics of the repealed have warned.

Instead, he said, he would prefer regulations as they were before 2015, when the Obama administration set new rules.

We are for an open internet. We always have been, we always will be. We are not in favor of anybody having the ability to throttle or block.

Brian Haynes, CEO, Rainier Connect

“We are for an open internet,” Haynes said. “We always have been, we always will be. We are not in favor of anybody having the ability to throttle or block.

“We firmly believe that continued or more stringent regulation in broadband is just going to slow investment, and slow the growth in the rural environment.”

While the Haynes signature on the letter to the FCC was genuine, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office announced Thursday that three people from elsewhere in the state complained that their signatures were falsely added to FCC letters supporting the rule repeal.

Those complaints prompted a call from Ferguson and other state attorneys general seeking to delay Thursday’s vote without success.

Ferguson subsequently announced his office will sue over the vote, citing improper procedure. Meanwhile, Washington state lawmakers have discussed plans to create local net neutrality rules in the wake of the FCC’s action.

  Comments