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Seattle mayor pledges to prevent 'private monopoly' on internet service

Seattle mayor pledges to prevent 'private monopoly' on internet service

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During last year's electoral campaign, current Seattle mayor Ed Murray received donations from Comcast, casting a faint shadow of doubt on the city's plans for a public-private gigabit internet partnership. But Murray said he would continue to support the project, and today, he's promised to improve Seattle's internet by any means necessary. "Seattle would never leave the construction of roads up to a private monopoly, nor should we allow the City's internet access to be constructed and managed by a private monopoly," wrote Murray in a statement. "It is incredibly clear to me and residents throughout the City of Seattle, that the City's current high speed internet options are not dependable enough, are cost prohibitive for many, and have few (if any) competitive options."

Murray's statement comes the day after Comcast, which provides much of Seattle's internet service, petitioned the FCC to approve its takeover of Time Warner Cable. Comcast has insisted that because the two operate in different markets, a merger wouldn't reduce competition in the industry, but it would make Comcast at least three times as big as the next-largest wired broadband competitor, making his promise all the more timely. Seattle's previous mayor, Mike McGinn, had previously agreed to a partnership with Gigabit Squared, but Murray announced in January that the deal had fallen through. Now, he's put forward other potential ideas, which include relaxing installation rules and more efficiently using existing infrastructure.

Murray hopes to build out a fiber network to every building in the city, leasing unused or "dark" fiber to companies at low costs while maintaining control over the network, and ISPs could potentially use existing utility poles for free or at a low cost. These leases, however, would "need to come paired with significant improvements in services." He is also considering changing the "director's rule" that requires a very high level of approval in a neighborhood before ISPs could expand service. If all other efforts fail, Murray says he will explore a municipally owned broadband network, a plan that McGinn also floated before ultimately deciding on the Gigabit Squared partnership.