May 14, 12:12 PM click here to comment > 14
Firing up fiber broadband in Seattle
Seattle’s residents and businesses need good infrastructure to remain competitive in the global economy. Here in the 21st century, that includes digital infrastructure. Just as canals, roads and rails help move people and goods, fiber optic broadband internet is important for companies moving what some call “digital freight” – enabling Seattle’s innovative economy to continue creating jobs.
Fiber optic broadband networks are orders of magnitude faster than existing networks based on obsolete telephone lines or coaxial cables. These networks, which connect customers to the internet through direct fiber connections, are starting to pop up in places like San Francisco, where a private internet provider recently announced its plans to begin building out a fiber to the home network. In Chattanooga, a local utility went ahead and built that network itself when the private sector indicated it would not.
Here in Seattle, we are committed to building better digital infrastructure. We’re going to start by exploring what our partners can do to help. The City of Seattle has more than 500 miles of fiber that we’ve already paid for, and much of it is lying there, unused. It’s time to fire it up to help our local businesses and creative people innovate.
Today, we are announcing a new ordinance that would allow partners to lease that excess fiber. We will negotiate with companies for better service to nearby neighborhoods who have poor quality service right now. Because that fiber is already there, partners could avoid some of the cost of digging up the street or hanging new cable on poles, making it easier for businesses to invest in digital infrastructure. We are already working with numerous providers to explore how they could deliver service to homes and businesses with this fiber when it becomes available. We want this to spur the development of a larger broadband network in Seattle, in partnership between the public and private sector.
This builds upon work we’ve already done to connect Seattle’s neighborhoods to fiber broadband. Last year we made our conduit available to providers in Pioneer Square, and as a result, more than 50 new customers in that neighborhood now have fiber-based internet services.
We are also working with the University of Washington to attract investment in building new fiber networks near UW facilities, an effort called “GigU.” We’ve already received many good proposals from interested partners, and we will have more to announce on this initiative later in the year.
If the private sector cannot get this done, then the City will have to look at doing it ourselves. That will take years to build and the cost would be significant, but it remains an option. Right now, we can connect more neighborhoods to high speed broadband by using fiber that we’ve already installed. All it takes is a simple legislative change to help us take the next step in building better digital infrastructure.
Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn