This was a difficult post to write,  as I prefer the message of optimism.  However, I think it’s an important one for the liberty-minded entrepreneurs out there, and it really shows the lateness of the hour in the US.

After much soul-searching and deliberation, I’ve decided it’s time to go.  This is not an easy decision for me…I live in the closest thing to a real Gulch I know, have built a successful business, have friends and family, and many deep roots here.  However, my business is now facing two government actions which show me that it’s time to take action of my own.

Some here know my story, but for those who don’t, a brief history.  6 years ago, two friends and I saw a problem – lack of broadband access in our rural Oregon county – and we knew it was a business opportunity.  We pooled a few thousand dollars of savings and started building our own ISP from scratch, using the just-released AirMAX equipment from Ubiquiti.

Slowly and steadily, powered by income from satisfied customers, we’ve grown over the years.  We now cover over 500 square miles of rural Oregon with real broadband speed, up to 26Mbps, which beats the new FCC broadband definition of 25Mb.  Do you live out on a ridge  miles from town, or up on the mountainside in the trees?  We can hang a dish on your house, point it at one of our towers and get you a quality work-from-home telecommuting-grade connection.

We’ve solved the rural broadband problem here!  It didn’t take buckets of public money, all it took was a handful of dedicated entrepreneurs 5 years of their lives, busting ass to build a completely independent parallel communications grid.    But now after all that effort and just as it’s starting to really pay off, I’m facing an untenable situation straight out of Atlas Shrugged.

 

I’ll share the State action first.  For the past several years, Comcast and Oregon have been in a dispute over certain taxes.  Comcast has been paying them while disputing, because of course that’s how it works with the State.  However, recently it seemed as though Comcast had a legal case and might not be liable for those taxes.  The problem Oregon was facing, was that most of the counties had not been putting that money into escrow like they should, but spending it on bread & circuses, using it to shore up pension funds that officials had gambled on the market with, and so on.

Giving the money back was therefore not politically acceptable, and so the Oregon Supreme Court did some fancy footwork and found a way to reclassify Comcast as a different type of company, one that WAS subject to those taxes.  Problem solved!  One small side effect of course, was that in order to make the legal dance work, ALL telecoms in Oregon got reclassified.

So 5 weeks ago, I received a letter from the State Assessors, letting me know that my small two-man company was now subject to ‘Central Assessment’ for property taxes.  We’re facing a fascinating new realm of taxable things known as ‘intangibles’.  Things like brand recognition, goodwill, potential coverage area.  Stuff that isn’t actually making me any in-hand cash yet, a tax on future effort I haven’t carried out!

 

The second action, this at the Federal level, is what really cements it for me.  Many will have heard of the ongoing Network Neutrality / Title-II legislation being worked on by Congress and the FCC.  On the face of it, it’s spun as ‘good for Internet Freedom’ and ‘levels the playing field’.  The reality of it, is reclassification of ALL US broadband providers as Public Utilities at the Federal level.

So, a company I and my friends built from scratch, that doesn’t receive public subsidies or use public rights of way, will become public property.  The American population has been groomed to such a level of entitlement that they see Internet service as a human right, like air or water.  They feel they have a right to what I provide, a right to my labor, and the government is only too happy to oblige.

While the FCC assures small providers that wage & price controls are not part of this legislation, those of us who can read legalese can dig into the next round of this, scheduled for late 2016 or early 2017, and see that they do indeed plan just that.  They aren’t calling it that of course, but it’s de-facto Nationalization.  There’s one little factor they haven’t considered though, and that’s whether I’ll stand still for it.

I won’t!  When this goes through, I’m out.  I’ve joined an Entrepreneurial community project in the Lakes region of Chile, Fort Galt, and am pouring the same energy into it that enabled me to build an ISP from scratch.  I am already seeing it becoming a buzzing-with-creativity hub, with the potential for creating the seeds of decentralized civilization.

 

For those doers, makers or creators who are still putting off their exit strategy, please reconsider.  For those feeling that you have too deep of roots, thinking they won’t come for your industry, they will.  They just came for mine.

 

 

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I want to say thanks to everyone for their kind words and concern!  Was not expecting this to resonate with so many.
Don’t worry, I’ll be fine!  Events like this are hard, but a good catalyst for personal change.  It took me 5 years to do this from scratch, I can do it again.  No I’m not tearing my network down, friends and fellow businesses depend on it!  It’ll still exist and persist in some form, it just won’t be mine any more….

I’ve wanted to live in the Patagonia most of my adult life, and am aware that Chile is not a panacea or promised land of freedom.  In this world as it is today, the only things we can truly own are ourselves and our skills.  The only thing we can truly rely on is ourselves, and our friends.  I’m meeting some wonderful, skilled and focused people through the Fort Galt project, and I’m incredibly optimistic about the future of humanity.  If I and 2 friends can build an ISP from scratch, what will 100 friends accomplish?   Best wishes all…I’m looking forward to living under Southern stars again.