Murray: Better Internet Access In Seattle Is a ‘Moral Obligation’

1/17/14Follow @bromano

In the aftermath of Gigabit Seattle’s flame-out, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is re-opening the door to “a municipal broadband solution,” casting it as a “moral obligation” in addition to an imperative for the city’s economic health.

Gigabit Seattle was announced with much fanfare in late 2012. Gigabit Squared, the private company selected for the pilot project, was to lease excess fiber optic capacity and other infrastructure from the city in a bid to bring higher-speed, lower-cost Internet access to Seattle neighborhoods and businesses, providing competition to established carriers. But the deal fell apart as Gigabit Squared failed to obtain financing, and ultimately left the city with unpaid bills, as reported by GeekWire.

The problem Gigabit Seattle sought to address remains.

“Our city is host to some of the most cutting-edge technology companies in the world, yet affordable high-speed Internet access is not available to those who need it most,” Murray said in a statement released Friday. “In several Seattle neighborhoods, Internet access is inexcusably slow or unreliable. For many Seattle residents, the cost of Internet is out of reach because real competition has been suppressed by outdated regulations.

“I believe we have a moral obligation to make affordable high-speed Internet access available to all of those who need it in Seattle. I also believe we should explore a municipal broadband solution, as well as options to create a more competitive marketplace, expand service and bring down costs.”

He describes a lack of high-speed Internet access as another barrier to education, economic opportunity, and participation in democracy—hitting on themes Murray has echoed since taking office.

Murray also worries about the impacts of this week’s federal court ruling that struck down the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules.

“The Internet we know and love today could drastically change for the worse if we don’t act soon as a community,” Murray says. “Seattle needs real competition now and we are taking steps to determine how best that can be achieved.”

His statement was short on specific next steps, but promised the city would move quickly and consult with “some of the best and brightest tech experts that live and work in Seattle to help us find a way forward.”

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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