City of Seattle looks to expand fiber leasing plan

Mayor Mike McGinn chats with former City of Seattle CTO Bill Schrier in Pioneer Square last year.

Seattle’s excess fiber optic cabling is officially for sale.

Mayor Mike McGinn released a request for information today to private companies who want to use the city’s 500 miles of unused cabling throughout the city.

“We are moving ahead on expanding our next-generation infrastructure, helping Seattle compete in the global economy,” McGinn said in a press release. “I look forward to seeing the applications from private providers seeking to improve our city’s internet service for our residents and businesses.”

A letter of interest and desired fiber route information must be sent to the city by 5 p.m. on Nov. 30, with responses returned by Dec. 10.

Most agreements will be five years, but the city will also consider terms up to ten years. There will be a priority list used when reviewing responses.

The City Council approved the plan in July with an 8-0 vote.

The City has already worked with The University of Washington, King County, Seattle Public Schools, Washington State Ferries and other government entities over the past 14 years to maintain and install fiber optic cable throughout the city.

But residents and businesses have been complaining about slow Internet and thus, the city responded with this new plan. Opening up the fiber network to private companies should increase internet speeds and allow for competition between providers.

Mayor McGinn has already pushed hard to bring fiber optic cable to Pioneer Square, a high-tech hub that historically had been bypassed by the big telecommunications companies. Comcast won a high-speed Internet contract for the neighborhood last summer, with the company saying at the time that it had always wanted to serve the area but chose not to given the high costs of laying new fiber in the neighborhood.

McGinn and University of Washington president Michael Young have also been working together to help improve Internet speeds around the UW community.

Here’s a PDF of the official RFI and the release in full is below:

City moves forward on plan to support increased access to existing fiber optic cable network
Announcement builds on past work to lease fiber in Pioneer Square,

SEATTLE – Mayor Mike McGinn released a request for information (RFI) today to identify private parties who may be interested in using the excess capacity of the city of Seattle’s fiber optic cable network for providing high speed internet services and increasing competition among service providers.

“We are moving ahead on expanding our next-generation infrastructure, helping Seattle compete in the global economy,” said McGinn. “I look forward to seeing the applications from private providers seeking to improve our city’s internet service for our residents and businesses.”

“Seattle ranks fourth in average broadband download speeds among the largest US cities and the goal, through this public/private partnership, is to make sure Seattle continues working at providing the fastest Internet speeds and to help create new service areas in underserved neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell. “The City’s priority is to ensure all students have access to high-speed Internet and for local businesses to receive the fastest speeds.”

Since 1995, Seattle and approximately 20 governments have been partners in a fiber partnership that has built out some 500 miles of fiber throughout the city. That network has excess capacity in some locations. Numerous residents and businesses have told the city that they do not have adequate access to high speed internet service. As a result, the mayor submitted legislation, adopted by Council in August 2012, authorizing the city to enter into agreements for using its excess fiber.

“The UW applauds the decision by the City Council, and the efforts of the Mayor’s staff in implementing this innovative program allowing access to unused fiber assets to those who would advance the state of high-capacity networking in Seattle,” said University of Washington President Michael Young. “This forward-thinking initiative is consistent with UW’s efforts with like-minded universities and communities comprising the national Gig.U program.  We are pleased the city has joined with us in these efforts by allowing public/private investment in our communities to drive innovation and discovery.”

“The city of Seattle’s program to open up its fiber network will support increased choice and availability of high speed internet service in Seattle,” said Joe Bangah, COO of CondoInternet. “As a Seattle based high speed ISP that is currently offering among the nation’s fastest residential internet speeds to downtown Seattle, CondoInternet looks forward to participating in the city’s fiber program, which will provide opportunities to expand our service to other areas of Seattle.”

There is an order of priority of intended use that the city will consider when reviewing responses to the RFI. The first priority is for providing fiber to the home to at least 100,000 households/businesses in Seattle with an open architecture. Other priorities include providing low cost internet service to low income housing facilities, improving public safety, lowering the cost of city utilities, and others priorities found in the RFI online at http://www.seattle.gov/doit/vendor.htm.

The city estimates that the term of most agreements will be five years, but they may consider terms up to ten years. For details and requirements of responding to the RFI, please see http://www.seattle.gov/doit/vendor.htm. Interested parties must submit a letter of interest and desired fiber route information by 5 p.m. on Friday, November 30, 2012. Respondents will hear back from the city by Monday, December 10, 2012, on any next steps.

  • giorgio i-547

    It’s a shame, but all the City had to do was combine resources with the County to up-grade the tri-county emergency radio system and the City and County could have provided high speed fiber optic to every business and residence in the tri-county area. Oh well, best…

  • RevInnovator

    Great article. A stark contrast to plan the current mayor of Chicago tried. He pushed it out to business and made it their problem vs. coming up with a solution. http://www.suntimes.com/business/15360160-420/big-city-wi-fi-efforts-so-far-have-failed-to-make-a-connection.html

  • Rob

    Go with Google Fiber!!! Eventually it will force even the biggest current web providers to give faster speeds at more affordable rates. It’s the right thing to do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steven.bradford Steven Bradford

    Fiber in Seattle? Yeah right. We’re currently moving our school from Cap Hill to Interbay. It’s sad that in supposedly high tech seattle our only options seem to be Comcast or DSL.