Dear Seattle: Comcast Doesn’t Want You To Have Fast Internet

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is pushing for a low-cost, high-speed fiber network that, at least in theory, would offer city residents better service at a better price than they currently receive. Comcast says this has absolutely nothing to do with why it has donated gobs of money in an effort to defeat his re-election effort.

According to the Washington Post, McGinn wants to build on a private-public partnership that takes advantage of the hundreds of miles of already in place fiber cable that’s been sitting mostly unused beneath the surface of Seattle for years, while his opponent Ed Murray doesn’t seem to have the enthusiasm for going beyond the city’s current 14-neighborhood pilot project.

One company, Gigabit Squared, is already moving forward with plans to launch service early next year that would offer 50,000 Seattle residents 100Mbps service for $45/month or Gigabit service for $80/month (both have a $350 installation fee that can be waived with a 1-year contract). Comcast’s 105Mbps service costs more than either plan, $114.99/month.

Gigabit Squared reportedly already has 10,000 people expressing interest in the service, which doesn’t even have a launch date.

Which might explain why Comcast is donating to efforts to defeat McGinn. The Post reports that the Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC donated $5,000 to a Murray supporters group a month after Gigabit Squared announced they would be offering lower prices and higher speeds than Comcast. This is worth noting because 94% of this PAC’s money came from Comcast this year, and its president-elect is a Comcast employee who has donated hundreds of dollars to defeat the incumbent.

Another $5,000 from Comcast went to the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy PAC, which has given ten times that amount to groups that support Murray’s candidacy and call for McGinn’s ouster.

Comcast says it’s merely supporting Murray and that these donations are not related “in any way to any actions of the current Mayor.” Though one has to question why the nation’s largest cable company is throwing its support behind a candidate with no platform position on expanding the city’s fiber network.

However, as the Post points out, Comcast has publicly stated that, in spite of all the evidence showing that the current state of U.S. broadband is lagging behind the leaders in Asia and Europe, everything is just fine.

First, one Comcast VP said all those reports are flat-out lies that don’t “rise to the level of truthiness,” then another Comcast exec somehow talked his buddies at the Philadelphia Inquirer into letting him pen an op-ed piece explaining that the reason consumers don’t get quality high-speed Internet service is that we simply don’t want it.

“The issue with such speed is really more about demand than supply,” wrote the guy from Kabletown. “Most websites can’t deliver content as fast as current networks move, and most U.S. homes have routers that can’t support the speed already available to the home.”

Of course, he’s forgetting that many people get their routers from their Internet companies, or that the makers of routers for the consumer market are pumping out the ones that best match the level of speeds being delivered to most homes. If Comcast and others were to suddenly make 100Mbps speeds the standard, the router-makers aren’t stupidly going to insist on selling devices that don’t keep up.

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