Another Shot for Municipal Broadband in Seattle


The city should just confiscate the wires already in the ground. Pull their licenses or permits or condemn their right-of-ways or whatever. Throw them a few bucks in compensation - cost of materials, maybe.

But if they are too chicken to go full socialist, wouldn't the Comcast et. al. cutting their rates and improving service accomplish the ultimate goal - i.e. cutting rates and improving service.

Or for that matter, why can't the city simply regulate rates and service levels?
Durkan is opposed to muni broadband. She has a canned response to questions, with the answer written by Comcast/Centurylink/Murray. Under Durkan, there is unquestionably be NO muni broadband.
I have seen Dorkan's written response to questions on muni broadband. She is opposed, absolutely. Also, Murray has taken step to be sure muni broadband is no longer on the table by leasing out the city's 'dark fiber' (unused fiber optic cable, owned by the city, that is not carrying data and is not 'lit) under contracts that prevent competition. Muni broadband can no longer be done is Seattle short of building a competing network.
It's laughable for city government to think they can do ANYTHING well enough to compete in the free market. Adjustable rates for low income customers is sure to attract a wide variety of low income customers and no one else.

Let's just subsidize existing internet service and save us all the headache of watching another government run epic tech fail in slow mo complete with excuses, overspending, and accusations of racism (im sure they'd make it in there somehow).
Remember when McGinn chose the most incompetent company to build out the Gigabit Seattle project? For months he knew it was imploding, but led people to think that its failure would be the result of Murray being elected.

Oh and 5 million wont do anything but further study the issue. Any actual network build out in areas where reliable high speed internet exists, is a waste of time. Better to install it in areas where it unreliable because you'll get customers for life and create a slow, but growing revenue stream. The city wide WiFi network failed in part because they built it out in the U-Dist, where dorm students already had free high speed internet.
Follow the telecom money and you'll see why our politicians won't vote in favor of municipal broadband.
While I agree city government probably isn't the best choice for running a municipal internet service provider, I doubt giving comcast and centurylink tax dollars would improve anything. Not without serious regulation, which is unlikely.
@7. In absence of a third and better option, it seems the least wasteful.

Improve what? The poor service and high prices? Are we taking Heidi's word on this? In my experience service is fine. Cost is variable depending on what you sign up for. I would much rather a subsidy for basic internet go to the dual overlords then watch hundreds of millions of dollars catch on fire, and float away as ashes. There's already subsidies for low income families with school age kids to sign up for service.
@8 in Columbia City my century link is at max 5mb down, 1mb up. In reality, it caps about 2.7 down and 300kb up. Can't so any of my work at those speeds, it takes all day to upload a file of any large size. I tried to get comcast as the speeds were at least faster. Over 23 days they canceled 3 different appointments, and I ended up going back to century link. One of the big reasons I moved out of my small town 20 years ago was high speed internet. 5mb is what they were selling in 2001 and it was fast then, not so much now. If I happened to move back to that same small town I could get 10 times faster service, for 10 dollars less a month. At least if the city starts adding some competition we might have some improvement instead of 15 years of status quo.
One thing providers could do would be to de-bundle broadband from cable and set reasonable rates for stand-alone service. This is the major beef I have with Xfinity/Comcast: in order to get decent throughput I have to purchase both features, even though we literally never watch cable television, because Internet alone would cost more for slower access.
You're used to this service and this cost, like you're used to a high rate of mass shootings. Other countries think the U.S. is strange.
All of the "free market" apologists here can't explain why Comcast and CenturyLink are so expensive and slow with all of their corporate welfare... I mean tax subsidies... I mean incentives.
"Mayoral candidate Cary Moon has said she supports it; Jenny Durkan offered a vague answer when asked, promising to "tap experts" and "find ways to partner with the private sector."

To clarify, the question the candidates were asked was "Will you push to make municipal broadband a reality in Seattle?"

Moon simply said "yes."

Durkan said "Broadband is the emerging as the next basic life service, as electricity, water and sewer once was. As mayor, I would tap experts in the area of broadband deployment and continue to find ways to partner with the private sector to ensure underserved neighborhoods, community centers, libraries and schools, have broadband facilities, the last mile connections and robust wireless services to serve all in City. And we must avoid the costly mistakes of past failed attempts. I am open to determining the best ways the City can use its resources (property, funds and franchise agreements) to leverage private investments and their rapidly changing technologies so we get the service without having to take on the financial burden or technological risks of the overall system."
I thought people couldn't afford rent. How on earth will this alleviate poverty and make Seattle affordable? $5m down a rat hole for consultants, studies, and extra city staff is what this is.
@13 - Thanks. You would have enjoyed the old days when facts mattered.
@14, here's how it will alleviate poverty:

For people who are just on the edge of being able to afford rent, but are stuck paying $100/mo for internet, it will allow them to have an extra $100/mo to save for emergencies.

For people who can't afford rent, but are able to live in one of Seattle's tiny home encampments or other living situation, it will allow them to have internet access.

For people who are living in subsidized housing (either through HALA's MHA, or our MFTE system), it will allow them to have internet access.

For people who could only the lowest tiers of internet access, it will allow them to get higher speeds.

And for all of those people who previously didn't have internet access, but can now get it - it will allow them to look for (and apply for) jobs online. It will allow them to find (and apply for) training and educational opportunities. It will allow their kids to do research on wikipedia, to complete their homework. It will allow people to comparison shop online for necessary (or even *gasp* unnecessary but enjoyable) items, so that they stop getting ripped off as much. It will allow people with lower incomes to set up side businesses, selling homemade items and other such things on ebay/etsy/etc that will allow them the additional income needed to feed themselves and their kids. It will allow them to look up bus schedules, map routing information, and all the other stuff that you and I take for granted on a day-to-day basis to get to school, work, friends' houses, court, community centers, and numerous other places.

Basically, it will help to put low-income people on an equal footing with rich bastards who say things like, "why do the poors need internet?"
The muni broadband issue will go nowhere unless they fix the stupid "last mile" requirement. And while I think that municipal utilities can do the job as well as the private utilities, Seattle City Government's micromanaging of the existing utilities show that it's probably not going to work for broadband. City Light and SPU's rate are what they are because they are the city's cash cows. Ratepayers would be amazed at the things they are paying for.

Here's a much better idea: Change the authority of the state UTC to govern broadband companies.
I'm in a modern building internally wired for cable that CenturyLink and Comcast refuse to connect to the fucking fiber ON THE STREET OUTSIDE because we're "too small" to be worth the trouble.

So I'm fucking choking on 5mbps down and 0.75mbps up on CenturyLink DSL for $50/month. It's 2017; I can't believe this shit.
@16 No one that can barely pay rent is paying $100 a month for internet, unless they are choosing to do so. A decent internet connection can be had from either of the major ISPs for half of that price.
The cost of the muni-broadband system studied by Murray was $70 per household. The study showed that adoption rates would have to be much higher than any municipal broadband system in any city anywhere. Unlike other public utilities (water and electricity) you can't force people to use only one internet provider. The federal government regulates the internet, not your local governments. The build-out cost was also really high, so the risk to the general fund was significant. Furthermore, wired internet is probably a temporary technology. Super-high-speed wireless is in development, so it is conceivable that in the not too distant future, the giant wired network we created would be meaningless. Philosophically, the people should own and operate the internet. Consolidation in power by ISPs and online companies is a threat, but we may need to look at solution that is based in facts and not ideals.

There is more competition than there was before Murray took office. Comcast had a monopoly over nearly the entire city, but now ISPs can compete citywide. Comcast doubled their speeds without raising costs as soon as Century Link announced their gigabit system. We need more competition to lower prices, and unfortunately, the city isn't poised to provide that without significant risk to the taxpayer and other services that the city must provide.
I am sure Durkan getting cash from Comcast and Century Link is not a factor in all of this:…

"This year, a pro-Durkan independent-expenditure committee spent about $116,000 leading up to the Aug. 1 primary election, with $86,000 coming from the chamber’s PAC.

Among the companies and organizations giving to the chamber’s PAC this year are more than a dozen that may be barred from giving to Durkan directly due to the new Honest Elections Seattle laws.

They include Amazon, which has given $250,000 to the PAC, CenturyLink, which has given more than $25,000, Vulcan, which has given more than $160,000 and Comcast, which has given $25,000.

Some of the others: AT&T, Airbnb, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Puget Sound Energy, the Washington Retail Association, the Rental Housing Association and Clise Properties."
@ #3 As someone who has been following this closely from the inside (a lot longer than Upgrade Seattle--with is not a criticism), that is a crucial piece that would make it both very feasible and affordable. McGinn and Murray leased out the dark fiber to corporate ISP middleagents, and the City Council at the time put up no resistance to creating an ordinance allowing this public infrastructure to be reserved for private interests. What would need doing is recinding those contracts, and that would be a major expense and legal headache no one in the city at present has the stomach for. Moon will find that out if elected. Durkan sounds exactly like Murray on this--so nothing will happen.

BTW, The last mile issue is solvable, doable, and feasible today than it was even a few years ago. But you still need a backbone to feed it.
@ #20 Adoption rates to break even would take around three years under the most feasible sceanario in the report that was supressed. That is assuming you don't provide TV service, and keep it pure Internet, with an option for VOIP service. Not a big deal, because streaming is even more prominent that it has been in the past. No one wanted to pay attention to that, on purpose.
And you can and should provide tiered bandwidth service.

Last mile costs do not have to be fully subsidized either. A lot more homeowners would pay a one time installation fee of no more than $150-200 to get a city fiber connection to the house in a heartbeat--especially if they are primarily Netflix or other streaming services, and install OTA antennas for free TV. This is still a very underestimated trend and movement that makes muni broadband more feasible.
@16- all those things are available at *gasp* THE LIBRARY! FOR FREE! Also, if Wikipedia is your go-to for accurate research then everything you ever have to say is irrelevant.
@24: how are your local library hours? My local library is closed right now, as I write this at 4:30pm on a Friday. It was closed all day today. It's open for a whole 7 hours tomorrow, and 4 hours on Sunday.

So once again, I'll repeat myself:
Basically, it will help to put low-income people on an equal footing with rich bastards who say things like, "why do the poors need internet?"
@25- please see the second sentence in my original comment.
Nemo dear, The city - via City Light - owns almost all of the poles that the overhead data infrastructure is mounted on, and most of the underground infrastructure is in city-owned right-of-way. The City could certainly provide the mundane stuff: service connections and billing. But I'm still not sold on the city providing technical expertise or customer support - especially in light of the whole city IT fiasco, and the ridiculous Nickels-era insistence on trying to have the water department do all the customer support for the utilities.

@ 17 But, but, that would mean they are a regulated Utility and....considered a utility. Can't have that. How do you get past it? Utilities can be de facto as well.
@27 Being an ISP Broadband provider is less far less complex than being a municipal IT that has fire, police, utilities, and services to take care of. Less people needed, and they don't need to be brogrammers. City Light was always the best choice, but they had no other kick in the pants to implement it. And nature abhors a vacuum.

It's been done before elsewhere, and can be done again here, standing on the shoulders of that to take advantage of things that are possible and available now that would help. But the forces need to be unleashed, so to speak dear.
Do it, Seattle, nothing brings Comcast and Century Link prices down and improves their service like some healthy local competition.
@20 It is physically impossible to get the same bandwith and reliability from Wi Fi at any frequency than hardwire for the majority of the population in this city and service area of hills.
In 1952 there was a proposition put before the voters to purchase the assets of what is now PSE and make City Light the sole provider of electricity in Seattle. It passed (barely. There were recounts and it only won by like 70 votes). If Seattle could pass a bond issue like that in the midst of the red scare era, it could be done again.

But if it's allowed to be micromanaged and used to pad the general fund, like City Light and SPU, we're going to end up with an inferior product.
Broadband 5G+ wireless connectivity is the future, leapfrogging the "last mile" problem. Give people an escape hatch and they'll take it. I dropped cable (for Netflix, Amazon, and Sling TV), but am still being gouged for 10Mbps Internet by Comcrass, because 1.5Mbps through CenturyStinks is my only alternative. I would qualify for the senior discount, but would have to go without Internet for three months to get it. Throw me a ring!