Seattle IT Broadband Privacy Directors Rule Q&A

Today, the City of Seattle issued Seattle IT rule 2017-01 requiring the City’s key internet service providers to obtain permission from their customers before selling web browsing history and personally identifiable information at a detailed or aggregate level. This rule reinstates a key consumer privacy protection eliminated by the U.S. Congress and the Trump administration last month.

What does this rule do?

The City of Seattle Information Technology Department (ITD) Director’s Rule 2017-01 requires cable companies that offer an internet service to obtain permission before sharing a customer’s web browsing activity or other internet usage history. Cable operators must attest to compliance with this rule by September 30, 2017, and annually thereafter.

Why is the City of Seattle issuing this rule?

Mayor Murray believes protecting the privacy of internet users is essential to a free and open society. In April 2017 the Trump administration repealed rules issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would have would have banned internet service providers from sharing or selling certain types of customer information without user consent. Because of this repeal at the national level, the City is using powers at its disposal to implement a similar rule and protect the rights of our public.

Does the City have the authority to regulate the privacy of broadband internet service customers?

Seattle Municipal Code SMC 21.60 (“Cable Code”) provides the regulatory framework under which cable operators may operate in the City of Seattle. In 2002, the City enacted privacy protections codified at SMC 21.60.825 to address concerns that advances in technology would greatly increase the capabilities of Cable Operators to collect, use and disclose their customer’s personally identifiable information without the customer’s permission. These privacy protections prohibit cable operators from collecting or disclosing any information regarding a customer’s use of a non-cable service, such as internet use, without the prior affirmative consent of the customer.

The City’s privacy law is in all respects consistent with 47 U.S.C. § 551 and designed to ensure cable operator compliance with local and Federal law.

Which internet service providers are subject to this rule?

Cable operators franchised by the City of Seattle who provide an internet service are subject to this rule. As of May 3, 2017, this includes Comcast, CenturyLink, and Wave Broadband.

What internet service providers are not covered by this rule?

Internet service providers operating in the City of Seattle that do not have a cable franchise agreement are not subject to this rule. Wireless internet providers, such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon are not subject to this rule.

While this rule limits how internet service providers may use a customer’s web browsing activity or other internet usage history, it does not limit the ability of websites or other companies offering online services from tracking a user’s activity.

What protections does the City provide to cable customers?

Since 1999, the City of Seattle’s “Cable Customer Bill of Rights” has provided the public with strong protections to ensure competent, responsive service from cable operators. The Rights were modified in 2002 and 2015 to add privacy protections to address concerns that advances in technology would greatly increase the capabilities of cable operators to collect, use and disclose their customer’s information without the customer’s permission. Learn more about the Rights and how to report a comment or complaint by visiting




Seattle issues rule to strengthen broadband privacy for consumers

Notice of City of Seattle Information Technology Department Director’s Rule 2017-01.

Seattle Information Technology Department (ITD) is establishing ITD Director’s Rule 2017-01. This Rule applies to cable operators franchised to provide cable service in the City of Seattle.

ITD Director’s Rule 2017-01 provides procedures that Seattle Information Technology Department’s Office of Cable Communications (OCC) will implement to determine whether a franchised cable operator is in compliance with the privacy requirements of SMC 21.60.825. The Rule requires Cable Operators to obtain opt-in consent before sharing a customer’s web browsing history or otherwise use such information unless it is necessary to render a service ordered by the customer or pursuant to a subpoena or valid court order authorizing disclosure, or to a governmental entity. Cable operators must attest to compliance with this rule by September 30, 2017, and annually thereafter. Read ITD Director’s Rule 2017-01 at

Any persons interested in presenting data, views, or arguments regarding this proposed new Director’s Rule may submit information or contact the Office of Cable Communications by email or call 206-684-5957.




Seattle responds to the FCC’s net neutrality announcement



Contact:              Megan Coppersmith, 206-233-8736,


SEATTLE (April 27, 2017) – Seattle’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller today weighed in on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s announcement of his intent to reverse federal regulations that enforce the principle of net neutrality:


“This would be disastrous to a free and open internet. These regulations, which were approved by the FCC in 2015, ensure that internet service providers (ISPs) must enable access to all content regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular websites.


“Seattle has made great progress over the last three years increasing broadband competition, affordability, and choice. Net neutrality, which protects open and equitable access to the internet, is necessary to support equity, economic growth, job creation, education, and a better quality of life. Enforceable net neutrality rules ensure internet providers cannot disadvantage consumers or the startup companies driving Seattle’s growth.


“The City of Seattle will engage with other cities and our partners to develop and deliver comments to the FCC voicing our opposition to this proposed change.”


In June 2014, Mayor Murray announced three strategies to ensure Seattle residents have access to equal, affordable, and competitive broadband internet services. Since this announcement, more than 185,000 Seattle households have gained access to gigabit speed broadband internet service.


Expanded wi-fi now available at 26 Seattle Community Centers

The City of Seattle has completed upgrading public wi-fi equipment at 26 Seattle Parks and Recreation Community Centers, and it’s already helping thousands of users. The increased access points were installed as part of the City’s Digital Equity Action Plan with support from Google. The City has seen wi-fi usage more than double in the past year with this addition of more and higher quality access points. Over 16,000 devices (16,166) connected in November, up from 7441 in November, 2015. The public wi-fi spots are especially valuable for low-income families who have no internet at home or are on limited data plans, and the homeless, who rely on wi-fi as a lifeline to look for work, complete homework, access health information, or stay in touch with family.

The community center upgrade project also enhanced capacity for digital literacy programming by replacing 49 computers in Community Center technology labs that provide public access and training at Delridge, Rainier, Rainier Beach, South Park and Yesler.

These improvements help ensure digital equity and opportunity in lower income neighborhoods. The robust upgrade expanded coverage so that users can connect in lobbies as well as in meeting and activity rooms at the community centers. The wi-fi expansion has been a classic case of If you build it, they will come. User rates have skyrocketed at several of the sites.  Danisha, a parent at Rainier Beach Community Center reports: “Not only do I get to watch my kids play basketball at the gym, I can now get online for social networking and check my work email.”

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of participants that come into the center just to use the wi-fi which, in turn, leads to conversations about what’s offered at the Jefferson Community Center,” said Doreen Deaver, Recreation Coordinator at the Jefferson Community Center.  “Overall, it has been very good for interest in our programs.”

Installation of the expanded service was led by Seattle Information Technology, the Associated Recreation Council, and Seattle Parks and Recreation. The system is using Cisco Meraki devices, with internet service currently provided in most sites by Comcast and by Wave Broadband in their service area. The expanded wi-fi provides another opportunity for users to connect to, use the wi-fi for civic participation, or get online to sign up for programs at the Community Centers.  For those without devices, the community centers also offer public internet kiosk computers.

Center for Digital Government Names Seattle Digital Cities Survey Winner

The Center for Digital Government (CDG) today announced the winners of the 2016 Digital Cities Survey. Now in its 15th anniversary year, the annual survey recognizes cities using technology to improve citizen services, enhance transparency and encourage citizen engagement.  Seattle held steady at fourth place, the ranking it also received last year.

Seattle Information and Technology (Seattle IT) was recognized for its recent consolidation. The new department is made up of 650 staff members that once worked across 15 city agencies and aims to create efficiencies and capacity for tech projects.

Other accomplishments include: the launch of a mobile-responsive website, a customer relationship management system to improve communications with residents and a data analytics platform for the police department. Efforts to work with the city’s tech community include the hiring of a civic technology advocate to engage with those individuals, a Hack the Commute program that developed prototype apps to help solve transportation issues, and a partnership with Code for America on the development of a crisis intervention app to connect people in need with social services.

In addition, an in-house innovation team is working on data-driven solutions to challenges in Seattle. While an open data program has been in place since 2010, the city’s “open by preference” policy was signed in February and calls on department heads to name “open data champions” to spearhead the release of information.  And for monitoring IT performance, Seattle developed TechStat, which is modeled off programs like the New York City Police Department’s CompStat, to facilitate internal transparency and monitor metrics for operations and projects.