Seattle needs affordable public broadband

Reclaim the Media and other Seattle community organizations are spelling out a vision for an affordable, public-owned Internet designed by Seattle for Seattle, built to address poverty, the digital divide, environmental sustainability, the need for civic engagement, education, and many other concerns. The group is calling on the city to commit to building a public-owned, citywide fiber broadband network by 2015, ending Seattle's digital divide and leading the nation into a new era of high-speed broadband.

"Seattle has received national praise for being America's most wired city, but there is nothing approaching equality of access for low-income residents, immigrants, and many others," said Jonathan Lawson, Executive Director of Reclaim the Media. "Low-income households and people of color are about 30 percent less likely than higher income or white folks to have an Internet connection at home in Seattle. The digital divide is still here. It impacts the daily lives of thousands of people, and keeps our communities and our culture from being all they can be."

Building on recommendations originally put forth nearly four years ago by the city's Task Force on Telecommunications Innovation, Reclaim the Media asks that the city commit to a six-year timeline to build a citywide municipally-owned fiber broadband network. Such a network could revolutionize our experience of Internet, video and other communications services, providing low-cost service with speeds and bandwidth capable of handling even two-way high-definition video.

Having all homes and offices connected through a single public-owned network would provide other benefits, including greater participation in e-Democracy initiatives, and substantial energy savings through "smart-grid" technology, with related cost savings for consumers. Initial funds for building Seattle's network could be provided by broadband stimulus funds included in the American Recovery and Renewal Act passed this spring by Congress; the law includes some $7.2 billion for modernizing broadband services.

"The United States has fallen to 20th place in terms of household Internet use. We've been stuck in the mud, and that's harmed our economy and our democracy," said Lawson. "But Seattle has the opportunity to lead the nation—becoming the first major city with a municipal fiber Internet. Let's face it—Internet access isn't a luxury, it's a basic necessity."

Read the complete statement.

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