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City of Seattle

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.

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Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn


Comment from b2k
Time May 18, 2012 at 10:14 am

Not holding my breath anything will come of this. Broadband in this city, one that likes to claim one of the top tech spots in the world, is absolutely laughable. Just terrible.

Comment from Julia Shozen
Time May 18, 2012 at 10:40 am

Please make it happen for Seattle!

“You must give birth to your images.
They are the future waiting to be born…”
Rainier Maria Rilke

Comment from Will
Time May 18, 2012 at 10:51 am

1 Gps Internet to the home/apt/condo for say $50 a month similar to what users in some parts of Asia have available.

Comment from Tamara Gonzalez
Time May 18, 2012 at 11:17 am

We’d sure love to get better reception for our cancer patients at Pete Gross House (525 Minor Ave., Seattle, WA 98109). Please let us know how to move forward with negotiations if they come to our area. Comcast is not available in this tiny pocket of Seattle.

Comment from Michael
Time May 18, 2012 at 11:29 am

Agreed with b2k. The public-private business case failed under Nickles and the Broadband Task Force did not see a public-private partnership the best option. I suggest the mayor read their report. I am frankly tired of hearing that it’s too expensive for the city to do. Those that still maintain that need to get out of the echo chamber and update their understanding of what is currently possible.

There was also an effort to recruit private businesses to do what the mayor is proposing. My understanding was that the lack of an enabling ordinance was not the reason no one was interested.

This is utimately about cost-shifting and affordability, not just access.

The issue not just access but affordability. There is no valid reason the city cannot treat it as a utility, and by the time history repeats itself by this pointless excuse to claim progress, this exercise in futility will be not be pretty.

Comment from MS7
Time May 18, 2012 at 11:49 am

It is laughable, with all the high tech up here it seems like this should’ve been done already. Whatever you do don’t let Comcast get their mucky paws on it. We need a viable alternative to that monopoly. The sooner fiber can be pushed into the neighborhoods (i.e. West Seattle!) the better. Comcast’s broadband network & service has been a joke for years… I want to dump it but DSL is not any better.

Comment from PC Mobile Help
Time May 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm

We would like to be users and resellers.

Comment from Mason
Time May 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I’d like to see free broadband to residents and small businesses. Doesn’t investing in people and small business pay off in making cities viable, creative, exciting, synergistic? Don’t the dangers of a digital divide far outweigh any advantages? Let’s get cookin’. By all means the city should take responsibility for ensuring all of us are hooked up. We have a tradition of city-owned electric production and distribution. It’s served us well. Let’s extend that tradition to broadband.

Comment from Andre Vrignaud
Time May 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Question: When will we see details on the ordnance?

I’m concerned that it may be too easy for 1-2 providers to buy up all the rights, and either sit on it, or not use it. To put it another way, what’s to keep Comcast from bidding high on using these pipes, and then simply using them to extend their existing network (and hence not enabling competition?)


Comment from Justin Knechtel
Time May 18, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I’m optimistic that Seattle is going to move forward on this, and hopefully the private sector can get this done or the City of Seattle can partner with some local providers (rather than the Comcast solution) to enable them to deliver better services.

For such a high-tech, highly educated city, I’m amazed at how poor our connectivity is – especially for the businesses community. I’m interested in a city solution like Chattanooga’s, where they enjoy full Gig connectivity throughout the city, and what that would look like for residents and businesses of Seattle. Is this something CityLight would take on or is it a new group entirely?

The ROI for Seattle and the Washington economy would be extraordinary if more entrepreneurs, Freelancers, students and home based micro businesses could be empowered with the same technology typically reserved for research facilities, big businesses, or universities. The City should be investing in that future and hopefully McGinn keeps this ball rolling.

Comment from Aaron
Time May 19, 2012 at 11:10 am

I agree with some of my fellow citizens. Make it a city owned utility and foster competition. And let’s get on with it pronto!

Comment from Daves911SC
Time May 20, 2012 at 8:29 am

Let us get moving on this. I agree with the others about barring comcast. They have a monopoly. Get this up to the Mapleleaf area!!

Comment from RathrSail
Time May 21, 2012 at 7:12 am

Many other cities treat it as part of their utilities, why not us? City Light (although at times out of control) has all the tools and most of the knowledge to support it.
At least if the City does it the cost will be born by the users and profits made by the taxpayers NOT Wall Street.

Comment from Andrew
Time July 24, 2012 at 10:13 am

There is a private company in California about to do a test area in San Francisco, someone should contact them about something bigger…