Broadband views separate Seattle Mayoral candidates

Seattle Mayoral hopefuls Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan concur on many progressive issues; their highest-profile disagreement being whether to replace the aging Aurora viaduct with a tunnel or with a combination of surface streets and transit upgrades.

However, during a labor-sponsored political debate last week, Seattle's broadband future emerged as another dividing line, with Mallahan downplaying the idea of public investment in a citywide broadband network extending affordable, high-speed connectivity to low-income neighborhoods, suggesting instead that poor people can use the internet in libraries. As reported in the Seattle Post-Globe:

[the candidates clashed] over McGinn’s proposal to create a new public utility to build a fiber-optic broadband network. McGinn argued that such networks are being built in other cities. “In this economy, the Internet is one place where commerce travels,” McGinn said. “If we don’t do it, we’ll be left behind.”

Mallahan, though, said, “It’s not a priority. It’s not even close to being a priority.”

With city revenues expected to decline, Mallahan said issues like transportation and public safety are more important, even though McGinn would argue the mayor could work on all those issues.

Mallahan said, “It’s not a priority to add hot spots for people who look like me to use as they sip coffee.”

Noting that part of McGinn’s aim is to provide more affordable Broadband to poorer communities, Mallahan said the Internet is available in libraries and perhaps Internet companies could be pushed to increase access.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey