Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, answering questions from Reddit users in a recent Ask-Me-Anything session, was asked what would happen to Gigabit Squared’s planned high-speed fiber network in Seattle if he loses to challenger Ed Murray.
“I don’t know,” McGinn responded, “but I do know Comcast gave Murray a big pile of money.”
Public records support McGinn’s assertion. Back in February, after the Gigabit plan was announced, Comcast donated $5,000 to a PAC called the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE). CASE has donated $52,500 to People for Ed Murray — which is 55.2 percent of its total expenditures — and recently another gave $10,000 to People for a New Seattle Mayor.
The Broadband Communications Association of Washington, largely funded by Comcast, also contributed $5,000 to Ed Murray for Mayor this past July. In addition, Murray’s direct contribution records show a $700 contribution from Comcast (the legal maximum) in December, as well as another $500 from Comcast exec Janet Turpen a few weeks ago.
A Murray spokesman tells GeekWire that his office has yet to “make systematic assessment of how the City’s approach to promoting ultrafast broadband is going.” However, he said, Murray is aware that the city has an agreement in place “to begin delivering ultrafast broadband as a test project in some Seattle neighborhoods.”
“If elected mayor, Ed will honor the City’s commitments with Gigabit Squared, but he will also makes sure that the City monitors the company’s performance to ensure that they are delivering the promised results,” the campaign spokesman told us.
Comcast is denying any connection between the donations and the city’s fiber-optic broadband plans, telling The Washington Post that its recent contributions have nothing to do with McGinn’s support of an alternative broadband plan.
At issue is a public-private partnership to tap into the city’s unused “dark fiber” network to provide broadband to Seattle neighborhoods. McGinn announced the plan in December in partnership with Washington, D.C.-based Gigabit Squared and the University of Washington.
Based on current rates, the company’s proposed pricing plan is cheaper and faster than what Comcast offers. Gigabit users will get 1000 Mbps speeds — or, “1Gig” — for around the same price per month as what Comcast charges for 50 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload.
Asked to expand on McGinn’s Reddit answer, McGinn’s campaign’s press secretary Aaron Pickus declined to go into further detail.
“I’m going to let the mayor’s comments on Redditt stand on this one,” Pickus said. “I think he spoke to it pretty well there.”
Whether or not this debate sways voters remains to be seen. One Reddit user, however, had this advice for McGinn: “This should become a bigger part of your campaign. If Ed Murray is the Comcast candidate, the entire internet will vote for you.”