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October 9, 2014

Seattle Exploring Muni Broadband, Other Options After Gigabit Squared Partnership's End

IPI expert referenced: Bartlett D. Cleland | In The News | Media Hit
  Washington Internet Daily

By Jimm Phillips

The Seattle Citizens' Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board (CTTAB) is moving ahead with its review of the feasibility of municipal broadband in concert with the city government's moves to figure out the best path forward after its partnership with the University of Washington and the now-defunct Gigabit Squared failed earlier this year. Seattle announced plans in December 2012 to launch a fiber network in 12 neighborhoods (WID Dec 14/12 p7), but Mayor Ed Murray said in January that the partnership was dead due to persistent funding and debt issues with Gigabit Squared (

Murray, a Democrat, has since disclosed a broadband plan for the city to explore municipal broadband and public-private partnerships, along with legislation to reduce regulatory barriers to private broadband network expansion. The City Council passed legislation Sept. 29 to roll back some rules and provide incentives for smaller broadband cabinets to hold equipment ( CTTAB planned two town hall meetings Wednesday on municipal broadband, which board Chairman Ben Krokower told us would help the board better advise Murray and the city council.


Bartlett Cleland, Madery Bridge Associates managing director and Institute for Policy Innovation resident scholar-tax and innovation policy, said Seattle should be cautious about pursuing municipal broadband given a "highly suspect" track history for such projects. Government-owned networks are feasible only in "very narrow" circumstances such as rural areas where private sector ISPs aren't able to deploy broadband, he said. An urban area like Seattle is probably the type of area that's "least likely" to produce a successful municipal broadband network because it will typically overbuild existing providers' networks, Cleland said. "It would just be an excuse to have the government own a means of competition against the private sector."

To view the full article, please visit Washington Internet Daily online. 


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