Finding a job, getting a competitive education, participating in our democracy, or even going to work for some, requires high speed internet access. I have seen people say online, "I don’t need a road to get to work, I need high speed internet." Seattle would never leave the construction of roads up to a private monopoly, nor should we allow the City’s internet access to be constructed and managed by a private monopoly.
It is incredibly clear to me and residents throughout the City of Seattle, that the City’s current high speed internet options are not dependable enough, are cost prohibitive for many, and have few (if any) competitive options.
After discussing a plethora of possible policy changes, from changing SDOT's "director rule" to granting Internet companies free or low cost access to utility poles, Murray comes to municipal broadband: "We may learn that the only way we can truly have the internet system this City needs, is by building it ourselves. If we find that building our own municipal broadband is the best way forward for our citizens and for our City, then I will help lead the way."
This is both encouraging and disappointingly tentative language from the mayor. It seems to cast municipal broadband as a last resort. Municipal broadband is a no-fucking-brainer. As Goldy explained back in January, "a 2007 study conservatively estimated a city-owned-and-run system would require $400 million in financing, but could break even at only 24 percent market penetration while offering a 20 percent discount over market prices." And the cost could be even more reduced by leveraging Seattle City Light's smart meter rollout.
In other words, municipal broadband will pay for itself. Chatanooga, Tenessee's municipal broadband service is—it began turning a profit 18 months after launching in 2009, and those profits will "easily" pay down the loans the city took out to build the service. It's fast, cheap and reliable. And the public here in Seattle is hungry for it.
"I have seen this from many Mayors who talk about how someone should do something but we don't always see concrete actions because of the difficulty and the immense opposition from some powerful companies like Comcast," Christopher Mitchell, the Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative, who's worked with cities across the country on this question, tells me.
What are you waiting for, Ed? Progressive rhetoric (and retweeting people who want to see municipal broadband happen) is great, but commitment and action are even better.