Seattle aims to become a world-class Internet city

Seattle is supposedly the nation's most wired city--but that's cold comfort to the many families in the Central District and Beacon Hill who are paying too much for unreliable cable Internet service, or who can't even get basic DSL. Take a look at this list of the world's top 20 cities for Internet speeds. What's the first thing you notice?

1. Busan
2. Seoul
3. Göteborg
4. Stockholm
5. Yokohama
6. Amsterdam
7. Paris
8. Tokyo
9. Aarhus
10. Helsinki
11. Rotterdam
12. Hamburg
13. Kosice
14. Bern
15. Berlin
16. Copenhagen
17. Espoo
18. Lyon
19. Lisbon
20. Oslo

That's right, no American cities make the list. According to a Harvard Berkman Center study (summarized in Ars Technica last fall), the US lags behind not just in speed, but also in other measures of Internet excellence: we rank 11th place overall in speed, 12th in affordability, and a dismal 17th in broadband penetration (availability).

That's part of the reason why Google's recent announcement of its plans to build one or more "trial" FTTH networks caught Seattle's attention so quickly. The Mayor's office quickly announced plans to propose Seattle as a location for Google's network, and the story was picked up by Techflash, PubliCola, and Horse's Ass, as well as by citizen groups frustrated by current wireline Internet offerings from Broadstripe, Comcast and Qwest.

Whether or not Google chooses Seattle as the most viable location for a new fiber network, the response to their announcement provides a further demonstration that Seattle wants and needs access to better Internet service. Whether Google builds it or we have to build it ourselves, Seattle needs a fast, affordable fiber network--perhaps one that can help us break into that top-20 list.

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