Comcast has given thousands of dollars to political groups to defeat the mayor of Seattle. McGinn’s major opponent, state Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle), has committed to honoring the city’s existing contracts for a 14-neighborhood pilot project, but has shown limited enthusiasm about McGinn’s plans to expand the network in the future. So the election could determine whether Seattle residents have new options for high-speed broadband service, or will have to make do with the slower services already offered by incumbents like Comcast.
The mayor is working on public-private partnerships using city-owned dark fiber. This dark fiber was laid down starting in 1995, and the mayor’s office now says there are some 535 miles of it, only a fraction of which is being used.
In a partnership with the University of Washington, the city put out a request for proposals in late 2012. “The RFP process is not intended to pick one provider,” says Cruickshank, but one company — Washington, D.C.-based Gigabit Squared — is currently farthest along. The company is still wrapping up its funding and finalizing plans with the city. They expect to begin offering gigabit-speed service to households with a combined population of 50,000 in early 2014, according to Mark Ansboury, co-founder of Gigabit Squared.
Comcast costs over twice as much for the same speed and 40% more for nine times slower
In June, Gigabit Squared announced pricing for its Seattle service: $45 dollars a month for 100 Mbps service or $80 a month for 1 Gbps service plus a one-time installation cost of $350 that will be waived for customers signing a one-year contract. For comparison, Comcast, one of the primary Internet providers in the area, offers 105 Mbps service in the area for $114.99 a month according to their website.
A loss for McGinn on Tuesday probably won’t mean the end of Gigabit Squared’s work in the Seattle metro area, though it could curtail Gigabit Squared’s plans to expand to other parts of Seattle. More importantly, though, if Comcast’s donations help Murray defeat McGinn, it will send a powerful message to mayors in other American cities considering initiatives to increase broadband competition.