Seattle Mayor Takes Swipe At Comcast, Bites The Hand That Helped Elect Him

Last fall, a number of people watching the Seattle mayoral race were concerned about what influence Comcast would have on the city’s municipal broadband plan if candidate Ed Murray were elected. After all, the Kabletown Krew had dumped thousands of dollars into his campaign coffers. The now-Mayor Murray is attempting to show that he’s not a puppet for Comcast by issuing a thinly veiled ultimatum to the company.

In a recent blog post, the mayor openly discusses his concerns with the current Comcast network that dominates his city and the need for a better-quality, high-speed data infrastructure.

Without calling out Comcast by name, Murray compares the need for high-speed data to the need for paved roads.

“Seattle would never leave the construction of roads up to a private monopoly,” he writes, “nor should we allow the City’s internet access to be constructed and managed by a private monopoly.”

He states that Seattle residents have “few (if any) competitive options” in broadband service and that it is “incredibly clear” that what residents do currently have access to is “not dependable enough” and “cost prohibitive for many.”

Murray believes — as most people do — that consumers should not have to worry about “whether their connection will suddenly drop because their service provider has decided to throttle a service they depend on.”

He voices the concern shared by many that Comcast and other ISPs have too much control over the information that is delivered to consumers.

“We need an internet that does not censor communication,” writes Murray, “but fosters access to the content citizens depend on for information or civic engagement. We need a service provider that can do all of this with strict privacy controls so that free speech is encouraged, not stifled.”

The city has a small, existing dark fiber network that it had recently been hoping to expand upon via a partnership with a company called Gigabit Squared. That deal would ideally have resulted in Seattle residents having access to a Comcast competitor that provided significantly higher data speeds at a lower monthly cost.

But then earlier this year, that deal fell through, with Gigabit Squared unable to secure the necessary financing.

“[W]e need to find ways to expand our dark fiber network so every building in the City is connected,” writes Murray. “We need to ensure that this network stays under the City’s control while exploring ways to rent it at a low cost to service providers.”

The mayor also leaves open the door to the possibility of a city-owned fiber service.

“[W]e also need to consider the option of building a city-wide municipal high speed internet system that meets the demands of this thriving technology hub,” he explains. “We may learn that the only way we can truly have the internet system this City needs, is by building it ourselves. If we find that building our own municipal broadband is the best way forward for our citizens and for our City, then I will help lead the way.”


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