Seattle tries to keep dream of municipal broadband alive | KUOW News and Information

Seattle tries to keep dream of municipal broadband alive

Oct 13, 2017

Remember municipal broadband? The idea suffered a blow in Seattle when a partnership involving the city, the University of Washington and a private company fell apart in 2013.

But the dream never died. Now supporters are pushing another campaign.

The advocacy group Upgrade Seattle says City Council members seem receptive to developing public funding for a project, possibly through a ballot measure.

Upgrade Seattle’s Devin Glaser said his group is seeking $170,000 in this year’s city budget to plan the network.

Glaser said 15 percent of households in Seattle currently lack internet service.

“I think they did a study and the last time people answered, 80 percent of the city said the internet was essential but only 30 percent said they could afford the monthly bills,” he said.

“So that combination tells us there’s a problem. So if the city can come in there as a public utility, and make bills cheaper, save everybody money, guarantee that we’re all connected at equal rates – that’s the job of government,” Glaser said.

Seattle tried to build a network through a public-private partnership, but the effort didn’t get very far.

Previous studies have estimated the cost of a full network at up to $700 million, but Upgrade Seattle is contesting that, saying it could be done cheaper.

This week at a candidate forum at Seattle’s First African Methodist Episcopal Church, both candidates for City Council Position 8, Jon Grant and Teresa Mosqueda, endorsed the concept.

Mayoral candidate Cary Moon also said she supports funding municipal broadband. Her opponent Jenny Durkan said the city should instead press private companies to improve the current network.