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City of Seattle

November 14, 4:23 PM click here to comment > 19

Working with UW to bring high-speed fiber to neighborhoods and businesses

Mayor Mike McGinn and University of Washington President Michael Young today announced a partnership to solicit private proposals to provide high-speed fiber service to communities surrounding the UW campus. For the first time, Seattle will offer to lease access to its unused “dark fiber” to allow private companies to build broadband networks with speeds up to 100 times faster than is currently available.

The City of Seattle has over 500 miles of unused fiber optic cable. We want to fire it up to help our local businesses and creative people innovate. To do that, we’re inviting private service providers to lease the dark fiber. We hope to negotiate with companies for better service to nearby neighborhoods who have poor quality service right now.

This partnership with UW came about as part of Gig.U, a new national initiative to spur innovation and economic growth by bringing high-speed fiber to neighborhoods and business districts near 37 universities across the country. UW is a partner in the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project, Gig.U for short. We are beginning with a national Request for Information (RFI) from service providers and others interested in tapping the City’s unused high-speed fiber. Providers could lease the fiber from the City, an option that the City has never previously offered. The deadline for responses to the Gig.U RFI is December 2. Based on the response, the City and UW will follow-up with targeted requests for proposals.

Gig.U can allow the City and University to develop a concentrated zone of fiber optic connectivity to act as a platform for innovation in nearby neighborhoods such as the University District, Eastlake, Cascade, and improve service to homes and businesses in South Lake Union. For example, some businesses in South Lake Union have access to high speed fiber, but many small businesses and residents do not. By leasing City fiber, private providers could connect service to residents in those locations. The leases could help the City recover the costs of installing the fiber.

The University is already wired with high-speed fiber, but building connections to residences and businesses nearby would extend it to off-campus projects. Currently, many neighborhoods are limited by copper phone lines and coaxial cable designed to carry telephone and television signals, which offer only a fraction of the bandwidth needed by today’s cutting-edge applications.

Our work on Gig.U is part of our ongoing efforts to connect more Seattle residents and businesses to high-speed broadband. The City recently expanded high-speed broadband in Pioneer Square, the city’s oldest neighborhood, which is now a hub for tech startups. The City leased empty conduit to service providers, allowing them to pull high-speed fiber through the conduit to serve neighboring buildings and businesses.

Check out this story from Geekwire for more on Gig.U.

Posted by: April Thomas


Comment from Rey
Time November 17, 2011 at 3:31 am

This needs to be a public utility. Private providers will charge way beyond the means of non-wealthy citizens.

Pingback from Seattle Might Lease Dark Fiber for Faster Broadband – CABLE TYPES – CABLE TYPES
Time November 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm

[…] The city of Seattle has never before leased a dim fiber for this purpose, according to a blog on McGinn’s central website. […]

Pingback from Seattle Might Lease Dark Fiber for Faster Broadband | Washington Investment
Time November 17, 2011 at 8:49 pm

[…] The city of Seattle has never before leased a dim fiber for this purpose, according to a blog on McGinn’s central website. […]

Comment from Justin
Time November 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm

May I suggest working to get broadband to the neighborhoods that currently don’t have good service such as the Central District/Rainer Valley and Beacon Hill.

Comment from Peter in Seattle
Time November 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm

This is good news, in principle, but I’m still waiting for a satisfactory explanation as to why Verizon/Frontier decided not to expand FIOS into Seattle. Something about the City of Seattle having given Comcast and Qwest an exclusive franchise, I hear. Funny how the City can be empowered to keep out competition but powerless to set rates. But Comcast kicks back some of the money they gouge out of Seattle subscribers to help fund the local politicians’ showcase known as the Seattle Channel, so it’s not all bad … right?

Comment from George Robertson
Time November 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm

The citizens of Seattle living on Beacon Hill are interested in using City of Seatte “dark fiber” to provide better internet service to this under served community. Beacon Hill has historically had very poor internet service from all providers.

Beacon Hill has a very well educated, talented entrepreneurial and internet savy population of residents in the 20 to 40 age range with relevant computer and web based enterprise skills and the means and inclination to put those to work. All they need is better internet service..

There is no part of Seattle with a greater potential to prove that providing high quality internet service can act as the catalyst to incubate new enterprise than Beacon Hill.

Comment from j-lon
Time November 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm

It would be great if this program could be extended into Beacon Hill and other south end neighborhoods. The broadband service in Beacon Hill is currently a very mixed bag, especially for those residents who are stuck with Broadstripe service (probably the worst broadband service available inside the Seattle city limits).

Beacon Hill is the unpolished jewel of central Seattle. It’s diversity, proximity to downtown, the I.D. Capitol Hill, First Hill, SODO, I-5, SR99, West Seattle Bridge, I-90, the new park and golf course, and the link light rail, make it an ideal spot for entrepreneurial activity and further residential density around the Beacon station.

No core Seattle neighborhood has more upside on these fronts. It would be a shame to see these many attributes undermined by poor Internet service.

Comment from Candi
Time November 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm

How’s about letting us on Beacon Hill in on some of that dark fiber too.

Comment from beeb
Time November 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm

While this is great news, I will echo Justin and would really hope that the Central District and surrounding areas would be heavily considered for this type of project.

The CD has been neglected, even by Seattle standards when it comes to choices and speeds for broadband connectivity. Qwest/Clink and Broadstripe have all but made using the internet useless in some areas.

Comment from Leonard(Lenny)Larson
Time November 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Dear Mayor, I want to remind the planners in your outlook for the best possible improved web service areas, that from complaints I have heard, Beacon hill always seems to get “short shrift” when any improvements are contemplated. Beacon Hill is a “checker board” of inadequate services down to none.
The business community is also improved when better service is provided and this benefits the city in many ways ,including the tax base. Let’s re-examine Beacon Hill for those contemplated improvements.

Comment from Jim
Time November 18, 2011 at 8:24 pm

If this is publicly funded fiber, I would expect the public would have access to it at a price that reflects their upfront investment. Internet access needs to be priced at cost, not as a value-added proposition for private, for-profit investors. Do Realize that that Hong Kong citizens can buy 1 gigabit access for around $30 a month. What do we pay in Seattle? All told, some $50 a month for 1.5 megabit. Why, why why?

Comment from Lynn
Time November 19, 2011 at 11:03 am

So the elite class of Seattle will benefit? the 99% class with no internet access benefit how? free computers and internet access ?
The goal is to make money for private companies .moving goods/services? how will Seattle citizens benefit from this ?
With no future reliable USPS mail service . No delivery to homes by 2015 , they will only deliver first class envelopes , which is estimated to take 5-7 days to deliver if US Congress passes their bill this year . How is that going to work exactly for the elite folks who buy goods ,services on line ? Privatize right? Use Fedex and other couriers who chg high rates?
This ‘Vision’is a huge problem for us all whether you provide broadband for the elite or not. This is just another example of a ‘Vision’ to move all of us to the unsecured public domain internet. to buy phones,computers under the guise of convenience and innovation which will never be policed( its global folks) fraud/theft will prevail on US citizens.
Next we will be voting on an unsecured line (if you can afford it) , which will further disenfranchise millions of citizens in Washington State.

Comment from T on Beacon Hill
Time November 19, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Second the comment about getting decent broadband access to older areas like the Central District and Beacon Hill.

As a computer programmer, I cannot work from home because of slow and/or unstable Internet access. Clearwire couldn’t hold a connection so I went with Qwest DSL, which has degraded to the point of having called out Qwest/CenturyLink technicians three times this year. Top speed is under 1M download and the connection is unstable, forcing me to cycle the modem at least daily. My last option is Broadstripe cable, which has a horrible reputation for service and quality.

Recently there was a job ad for Amazon, customer service, work from home. It required 3M download and stable ISP, for $12/hour. Look who’s left out of the running on that.

Comment from Sarah on Beacon Hill
Time November 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Dear Mayor, Please give consideration to core south-end neighborhoods such as Beacon Hill and the Central District as you iron out the details of this program. I am paying high rates for Comcast internet service in order to have acceptable speeds for working from home and wish there were a better option. Qwest/CLink service in my area is too slow to be a viable option.

Comment from Michael
Time November 21, 2011 at 11:59 am

I’m sorry Mayor, this was not the best use of the city’s dark fiber most had in mind. South Lake Union does not need this subsidy–and it is a subsidy. You are wasting the potiential for public broadband, not enhancing it. I understand the need for revenue, but sustainable revenue comes from smart investment. This does nothing to make it either more affordable nor accessible to the city as a whole.

As other’s mentioned, in many other US communities and foregin countries, the internet is now a utility. I understand you have SPU adminstering this, but City Light is still capable of it, and would be more appropriate, as it already has the infrastructure and the backbone.

Many things have changed for the better for municipal broadband since 2007, making it feasible and sustainable as a public utility. I am dissapointed your advisors have not updated thier knowledge. They are stuck on triple play right out of the gate, and that is one reason why there is no progress. This piecemeal approach to everything makes the whole less certain and does not accomplish the goal in the end. There has been a lot of discussion and insular analysis within the city about this since 2006, and this does not represent progress.

Comment from BenRifkah
Time November 21, 2011 at 4:47 pm

This is a good start. It’s my understanding that this project will leverage existing infrastructure to provide high speed access to citizens in areas where high-speed access already exists for University purposes. While I think this is great I will add my voice to those who have already mentioned that this doesn’t address the seriously neglected neighborhoods of our city.

Additionally, I’ll add that the areas that will benefit from this project are already served in other ways by commercial interests due to their existing concentration of wealth. Areas which are under-served by internet access are overlooked in other ways as well. Providing these areas with high-speed internet access would give residents a powerful activism tool through which they can work toward being better served all around.

Comment from Pete Blunk
Time November 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Seattle Public Utilities would be a great provider of broadband. Why give the money to some outside vendor?

Comment from Betty Jean
Time November 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I strongly support moving toward a a public utility and providing adequate service to under served neighborhoods. Mine, where I frequently have to restrain myself from throwing my computer out the window is Beacon Hill.

Comment from Paine’sFan
Time November 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm

I agree with the others that this must be a public utility and not turned into another defacto private monopoly that overcharges its customers. In fact, I would suggest that this should replace Comcast within the city. I’d also suggest that the city replace Comcast as a provider of TV. As of this time, the city is participating in the “stick up” of its residents. Comcast’s prices are exhorbitant, especially when compared to municipalities providing the same services.