Internet access is the infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century and access to the information and services it provides are responsible for economic growth, job creation, education, and a better quality of life. The City of Seattle is exploring all options that would increase the availability of competitive, affordable, and equal broadband internet access options that approach one gigabit of bandwidth across the city.
Broadband accomplishments under Mayor Murray
Mayor Murray's broadband approach
- Reduce regulatory barriers: Cities are competing with one another to attract high-speed broadband opportunities. To make Seattle more welcoming to these opportunities, we are taking steps to increase access to city infrastructure and simplify our permitting processes.
In October, Mayor Murray signed legislation superseding SDOT Director's Rule 2-2009 and revising the Seattle Municipal Code to allow providers more flexibility in installing communications cabinets in the right-of-way (Ordinance 124598). These revisions allowed CenturyLink to select Seattle as one of its gigabit cities and begin deployment of gigabit-speed fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) to tens of thousands of single-family Seattle homes. In addition, Wave Broadband, under its CondoInternet brand, announced plans to build FTTP gigabit broadband service to Seattle's Eastlake neighborhood.
- Explore public/private partnerships: Seattle continues to engage experienced commercial internet service providers, exploring opportunities for improved Internet access in the city. Discussions have included several options, from leveraging existing city-owned "dark fiber" as the backbone of a new fiber broadband network to providing WiFi access throughout City facilities. Cascade Networks is currently leasing portions of the City's dark fiber to provide internet access in the International District.
- Examine municipal broadband: As the City is taking steps to encourage providers to deliver gigabit broadband services throughout Seattle, we have looked into the feasibility of providing a City-operated fiber-to-the-premise municipal broadband solution that could bring high-speed access to all Seattle households.
In December, the City commissioned an update to our most recent municipal broadband study and while the fiber and broadband landscapes have changed since the last study, it was found that the cost of building out a City-owned and operated municipal broadband utility funded only by rate-payer revenue presents significant risk to the city's finances at this time. The City is looking into other options for funding, joint ventures and best practices to bring equal broadband access across the city.
Read the study here.
Broadband access under Mayor Murray
The maps below compare consumer gigabit broadband availability for single family homes across Seattle in January 2014 and June 2015.
Gigabit broadband service, January 2014
Gigabit broadband service, June 2015
The growth in gigabit availability is primarily due to CenturyLink's selection of Seattle as one of its fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) gigabit cities. Since its announcement, it has made gigabit connections available to 60,000 single family homes and anticipates offering service to more than 100,000 homes by the end of 2015. Wave Broadband has also announced plans to build FTTP in portions of Seattle. Wave now serves 600 homes with FTTP and intends to increase its build out.
Comcast announced it will make 2 gigabit FTTP connections available to select households and businesses across Washington State, however pricing and a date for service availability have not been announced.
Households with access to gigabit broadband
What about apartment and condo buildings?
Providing new, competitive broadband services in Multiple Dwelling Unit (MDU) buildings, like apartments and condominiums, works differently than single family homes. To connect new service, building owners must agree to allow a new provider to connect their service to the building, place central distribution equipment in a security facility, and potentially connect new wires to each housing unit. Newly constructed apartment and condo buildings are thinking about broadband and often pre-wire units for competitive, and often gigabit, broadband internet services. For existing buildings, the cost of adding new service can be significant for both the broadband provider and the building owner.
The City is taking steps to encourage competition in existing buildings. In a revision to the City's Cable Code passed by Council in March 2015, the City now forbids providers from locking building owners into exclusive contracts for cable television services and limiting the term of new contracts. While the City's authority only extends to cable television, providers like CenturyLink, Comcast, and Wave deliver both television and broadband internet services over the same cables, therefore reducing barriers to building access helps both services.