Seattle is known around the world as a home for innovators and entrepreneurs. But that reputation doesn't last forever. You have to keep innovating, keep building, and keep working in order to stay competitive. Today, businesses of all kinds rely on high speed internet in order to operate. That's true of retailers and our maritime and industrial sector, just as it's true for our tech sector. Our residents need fiber broadband as well as part of their daily lives at home, on the go, or as they create and innovate.
We cannot rely on aging and outdated infrastructure to meet Seattle's Internet service needs.
That's why we are working to connect our neighborhoods with high speed fiber broadband internet. We’ve brought fiber broadband to Pioneer Square. We're working with partners like Gigabit Squared and the University of Washington to use our existing “dark fiber” as the backbone of a new fiber broadband network. It won’t happen overnight. But we are beginning the work of building a 21st century Internet infrastructure for Seattle.
Why is the City going with this route, as opposed to creating a municipally-owned system?
Over the past five years, the City commissioned various studies to determine the feasibility of a municipal deployment of fiber to the home (FTTH). The studies indicated that the cost to the City to construct its own FTTH network would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Before taking such a significant step, which would require the City Council to place a measure on the ballot for voters to approve, we decided to test the private market again. We made our dark fiber available for public-private partnership opportunities where a private entity, rather than City taxpayers, would assume financial risk. If it turns out the private sector cannot get the job done, we would again pursue a municipal broad band utility.
How did Seattle select Gigabit Squared?
In October 2012, the City issued a Request for Interest (RFI) to solicit interest in leasing the City’s existing excess fiber, or “dark fiber,” as the backbone of a new fiber broadband network. In that RFI, the City expressed its particular interest in leasing excess fiber for purposes of making services available to at least 100,000 City residents and to build an open network. Ten companies responded to that RFI and the City met with all ten companies. Gigabit Squared is the only company that so far has committed to the FTTH approach preferred by the City. We continue to meet with other interested companies.
Gigabit Squared is a private company, how is the City involved in Gigabit Seattle?
Gigabit Squared is investing in Seattle by bringing high bandwidth internet services here. While the city has a partnership with Gigabit Squared for leasing our fiber, they are a private firm and are making their investment privately, without using any public funds.
Gigabit Squared and the City have signed a letter of intent to maintain “Open Architecture,” meaning other service providers can lease bandwidth from GB2 at competitive rates and provide services. The final agreement will formalize the signed letter of intent.
Does the City have any input on how gigabit service is rolled out to different areas of Seattle?
The City’s goal is to get FTTH services to all Seattle residents. In support of that goal, the City is collaborating with Gigabit Squared and sharing information about availability of excess fiber, demand for services, and historically underserved areas. While Gigabit Squared is a private company and has committed to serve the entire City, Gigabit Squared will fund, own, and operate its FTTH network and will make final decisions about deployment sequence and timelines.
What impact will there be on the City’s infrastructure? Will they be tearing up the streets?
Gigabit Squared is planning fiber routes that leverage existing underground conduit and aerial infrastructure (light and telephone polls) to minimize disruptions during the construction of its FTTH network. It is likely that Gigabit Squared will need to do new construction on streets in certain locations and will work with the City to get the appropriate permits for that work. The City does not yet have a list of the specific locations that will be affected.