If your heart stops, a defibrillator can help restart your heart. But how do you revitalize an economically stagnant neighborhood? Seattle Mayor Ed Murray believes he can do it with faster Internet service.
Murray is working with CenturyLink to roll out super fast service – one gigabit per second – to single family homes in neighborhoods, including the Central District, Beacon Hill, Ballard and West Seattle.
Unlike an earlier high-speed Internet partnership that ended in financial disarray, CenturyLink is footing the bill this time. The company asks only that Seattle relax rules about where the company can place its metal service cabinets, which are now small enough to be placed on telephone poles.
Murray says “more capacity, faster capacity, will result in more startups, more home-grown businesses in neighborhoods where there are real struggles around jobs.” Entrepreneurs are lining up to grow businesses in central Seattle neighborhoods, he said, but that poor Internet service has been holding them back.
More Internet, More Nuts
Herman Lanier, the owner of a peanut brittle factory, said he has been slowed by a spotty Internet connection.
Lanier lives and works at the foot of Beacon Hill, where he started making peanut brittle in his basement. A consummate salesman, he doesn't miss the opportunity to explain what makes his candy superior: “We use more nuts."
He showed off a small bag of dark chocolate-covered pistachio brittle. “The American public’s been hoodwinked. What I mean by that is, you’re paying for sugar and corn syrup and very little nuts.” It doesn't hurt sales that his brittle is dripped in chocolate.
Lanier sells a lot of his brittle online, but a slow connection has been a problem.
“When I sit down at my desk, and I’ve got my cooker downstairs, it’s cooking the candy, I can take a moment to check my email,” Lanier said. “But I can’t spend a lot of time there. I need quick access if I’m going to stay busy.”
Lanier said he’ll sign up for the high-speed service – if he can afford it. CenturyLink has said the new service will cost $80 a month, when bundled with other products – roughly the same rate as Comcast.
Worries About Gentrification
DeCharlene Williams has seen this kind of thing happen before, and to her, it smells like gentrification. Williams has run a hair salon in the Central District for 46 years. She runs the neighborhood’s Chamber of Commerce, too.
She said she worries that better Internet service will drive up rents and housing costs, pushing out the very people it is meant to help.
Murray said his office is looking into subsidies that would help needy families pay for the service. But he said he would prefer to let the market set the price. He said the new service will be fully implemented by the end of 2015.