Shortly after taking office, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray pulled the plug on Gigabit Seattle, the affordable ultra-high-speed broadband partnership that his predecessor had widely touted. Some Murray critics smelled politics, but as I wrote at the time, I'm not sure he had much of a choice. As enticing as was the service that Gigabit promised, the company struggled to raise the necessary private financing from day one. So its death had seemed inevitable for months.
But as I also wrote at the time, Gigabit's demise is also an opportunity for the city to reassess its broadband strategy and once again consider building a municipal broadband system along the lines of Tacoma's city-owned Click! And in a statement released today, that's exactly what Murray says he will do:
“Our city is host to some of the most cutting-edge technology companies in the world, yet affordable high-speed Internet access is not available to those who need it most. In several Seattle neighborhoods, Internet access is inexcusably slow or unreliable. For many Seattle residents, the cost of Internet is out of reach because real competition has been suppressed by outdated regulations.
I believe we have a moral obligation to make affordable high-speed Internet access available to all of those who need it in Seattle. I also believe we should explore a municipal broadband solution, as well as options to create a more competitive marketplace, expand service and bring down costs.
“Without access to high-speed Internet, low-income residents have yet another barrier to the best employment and small business opportunities available. It becomes more difficult for those individuals to participate in our democracy and this is unacceptable. Children from low-income homes do not have the same educational opportunities that are readily available to other children.
“We are also concerned that for-profit companies may take advantage of a recent federal court decision striking down FCC rules that protected ‘Net Neutrality.’ The Internet we know and love today could drastically change for the worse if we don’t act soon as a community. Seattle needs real competition now and we are taking steps to determine how best that can be achieved. We realize many Seattle residents want more options sooner rather than later and they have been waiting a long time for those options. We will move as quickly as possible to find solutions and get to work.
“As we pursue options, we plan to reach out to some of the best and brightest tech experts that live and work in Seattle to help us find a way forward. Rest assured, we will get this done for our city.”
These are very encouraging words from the mayor on a subject of vital importance to the city both in maintaining a competitive advantage for Seattle businesses, and in addressing longstanding issues of economic inequity. I hope he moves forward as quickly as he promises.