Broadband competition in Grays Harbor County one step closer

A century-old telecommunications company with its roots in southwest Washington is looking to expand its range and offer broadband services in Grays Harbor County.

Mashell Telecom started out as a telephone service provider and has since grown to offer broadband services in Tacoma, Puyallup, Centralia, Eatonville and Graham. The Aberdeen City Council unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance that would allow the company to use the city’s right of way Wednesday.

Rick Finnigan, an Olympia attorney who represents Mashell, spoke to the council during the public comment period provided prior to the vote.

“Mashell is over 100 years old and family owned,” he said. “They started competing with what is now CenturyLink in about 1999.”

Mashell purchased HarborNet in 2008 and just last year purchased ReachONE Internet “and is now ready to provide broadband service in this area,” said Finnigan. Currently, Mashell has offices in Tacoma, Eatonville and Centralia.

Finnigan said the small company prides itself on its customer service. “We don’t have a huge call center. When you call our customer service you actually get to talk to a person.” The company is also exploring options for expanding fiber optic services within the county, he said.

Councilman Denny Lawrence asked if Mashell would be subject to franchise fees. According to Finnigan, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was enacted by Congress and allows anyone to enter any communications business and to let any communications business compete in any market against any other business, prohibits charging franchise taxes to broadband providers, but added the company would still be subject to business taxes.

The council will likely have the third reading and vote on the ordinance at the July 12 meeting.