City of Seattle continues to explore options to deliver affordable, high-speed internet to consumers

Yesterday in Cedar Falls, Iowa, President Obama unveiled his plan to enable local governments to provide fast and affordable internet options for consumers. The Mayor’s office staff and the City’s Department of Information Technology are excited to look into the President’s proposals more in-depth to figure out how they play into the work we have already begun in Seattle.

Seattle is a city known for its technology and innovation, yet too many residents do not have access to the internet or the skills necessary to participate in our high-tech society. Over the course of Mayor Murray’s administration, the City of Seattle has – and continues to – explore several options that would increase the availability of competitive, affordable high-speed gigabit internet access.

Reducing regulatory barriers: Cities are competing with one another to attract high-speed internet providers. To make Seattle more welcoming to these opportunities, we are looking at increasing access to city infrastructure and simplifying our permitting processes.

In September, Mayor Murray signed legislation revising the SDOT Director’s Rule 2-2009, a critical first step in reducing Seattle’s regulatory barriers. These revisions allowed CenturyLink to select Seattle as one of its gigabit cities and begin deployment of gigabit-speed fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) to tens of thousands of single-family Seattle homes. In addition, Wave Broadband, under its CondoInternet brand, has announced its plans to build FTTP gigabit broadband service to Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood.

Utilizing/Investing in public/private partnerships: Seattle is continuing to engage experienced commercial internet service providers, exploring opportunities for improved internet access in the city. Discussions have included several options, from leveraging existing city-owned “dark fiber” as the backbone of a new fiber broadband network, to providing WiFi access throughout City facilities. Cascade Networks is currently leasing portions of our dark fiber to provide WiFi access in the International District and we are in discussions with additional vendors.

Further investigate municipal broadband: The City is taking the steps necessary to encourage providers to deliver new gigabit internet service. In case providers do not step up to provide competitive, affordable, and equal broadband services across Seattle, the City is exploring the feasibility of a City-operated fiber-to-the-premise municipal broadband solution that could bring high-speed access to Seattle households.

The City has studied offering municipal internet in the past, however several factors in the fiber and broadband landscapes have changed since the last study and could affect the viability of a City-operated service. In December, the City commissioned an update to its most recent municipal broad band study and we expect to see the results in April.

Earlier this month, the City of Seattle joined the Next Century Cities, a group of municipalities who recognize the importance of leveraging gigabit-level internet and fully realizing the full power of truly high-speed, affordable, and accessible internet.