Mayor Murray today announced that, as part of his three-point plan for more and better broadband service in Seattle, he will send legislation to City Council that will bring more competition to the marketplace and more access to service – especially in neighborhoods that are currently underserved.
Murray said his legislation will change a regulatory barrier – the SDOT “director’s rule” – that has prevented companies from investing in their own high-speed fiber networks within the city. CenturyLink earlier today announced that this change will allow it to bring one-gigabit, fiber-to-the-premises internet access to tens of thousands of single-family Seattle homes in Beacon Hill, Central District, Ballard, and West Seattle by the end of 2015.
“So much of our recent economic growth has been due to the success of high tech companies and start-ups that have chosen to make Seattle home,” said Murray. “Yet not all Seattleites are benefiting from our technology boom, and we know that some neighborhoods today lack adequate, competitive choices for broadband internet access. CenturyLink’s announcement to bring fiber internet access to tens of thousands of homes is an important first step in my broadband strategy, but there is more we can do as city to bring equal and affordable access to all.”
“The proposed changes will help expand broadband deployment in Seattle by opening up our market and making it easier to build the necessary infrastructure for next generation broadband services to neighborhoods like Beacon Hill,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee. “Broadband deployment is an equity issue and we must make sure underserved neighborhoods receive the same type of investments. Next generation broadband service is critical to developing our local economy, enabling telecommuting, taking online classes, healthcare, and ensuring businesses have the speeds to be successful. This proposed legislation to supersede an outdated rule is long overdue. I applaud the Mayor in prioritizing resources for this work and advancing legislation through a community stakeholder process.”
In addition to reducing regulatory barriers, Murray said his broadband plan includes pursuing public-private partnerships to allow companies to lease City-owned dark fiber already running beneath our streets, as well as continuing to assess the feasibility of a municipal broadband option.
“This is a great first step in opening our neighborhoods to competitive broadband services. The Mayor’s office is actively working with members of the community and the broadband providers to give us more competition and choices. This is a win for all of us and it will encourage better broadband service, especially in the under-served neighborhoods in Seattle,” said Robert Kangas, Chair of Upping Technology for Underserved Neighbors.
“Some of the most famous entrepreneurs in the world started their businesses out of their homes here in Washington State. Putting enterprise-grade internet speeds within everyone’s reach will be an instant boon to Seattle’s tech industry as it places the ultimate tool required to start and grow a tech company into the hands of any potential entrepreneur,” said Patti Brooke, vice president of government affairs and member programs at the Washington Technology Industry Association.
“This announcement puts forward a solution that provides residents with more broadband choices while furthering the City’s efforts in driving tech access and affordability by cutting through the red tape that has hindered broadband investment in the past,” said Brian Hsi, of the Seattle Citizens Technology and Telecommunications Advisory Board.
“Attracting residents, start-ups, and businesses that rely on fast internet speed is vital to a globally competitive city,” said Maud Daudon, president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “Increasing to 1 gigabit internet speed will help cement Seattle’s status as a burgeoning technology powerhouse.”
The proposed legislation to replace the director’s rule is the result of several months of stakeholder meetings that included representatives from communication service providers, City departments, the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board, the Citizens Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board, the Public Space Management Taskforce, Upping Technology in Underserved Neighborhoods, and the Beacon Hill Community Council.
“I am committed to digital equity for this city, but it’s a new era,” said Murray. “Cities are competing for broadband and have to be more welcoming. To compete – and to remain technology leaders – we need to relook at some parts of how Seattle does business.”
Murray’s legislation will be transmitted to the City Council this week, where it will be taken up by the Transportation Committee.