Broadband politics: Comcast backs Murray vs. McGinn in mayor’s race as Seattle preps for Gigabit Internet

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Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is up for reelection this Tuesday against Ed Murray. Comcast has contributed to Murray’s campaign.

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.

Ed Murray. Photo via Ed Murray's Facebook campaign page.

State Sen. Ed Murray.

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.

Murray’s contributions to date total just over $722,000, while McGinn’s come in at $447,000.

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.

Gigabit Squared will eventually deliver its service to these 14 neighborhoods. The arrows point to the launch areas: U-District and Capitol Hill.

Gigabit Squared will eventually deliver its service to these 14 neighborhoods. The arrows point to the launch areas: U-District and Capitol Hill.

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.”

  • fastasleep

    Noooooo! I want my fiber! VOTE McGINN.

  • http://sitetherapy.net/ rick gregory

    Taylor? You’re a reporter, right? Did you do the basic step of calling the Murray campaign and asking his stance on the Gigabit Squared plan?

    • Taylor Soper

      Hi Rick, comments from the Murray campaign are in the story. Sixth paragraph. Thanks for reading.

    • joshua

      Check the article again, there’s a quote from a Murry spokesman.

  • Viet Nguyen

    Before you swoon all over Seattle Gigabit – ask yourselves one question: how much are they investing in Seattle? and how much have they raised from investors to do so? I guess that’s two questions.

  • Viet Nguyen

    CASE is actually the Seattle Chamber PAC, which is representative of a lot of different business and civic interests and not specifically tied to any telecom provider.

  • Mister Jones

    Fiber isn’t coming to my area, but I’m still with McGinn. The city is doing better than ever, and we should change that why? The Senate has long been a joke. I don’t want that here in my city. The fact that Murray has almost twice as much in donations, tells me that he needs more advertising, because he is selling something. Seattle needs to stay on track. Vote McGinn.

  • Lancealot

    What does the office of cable communications say ?

  • panacheart

    Comcast is backing a campaign against McGinn because he’s pushing for Gigabit Squared, which leaves me supporting McGinn. It would appear Comcast doesn’t want Gigabit Squared to compete with them. The way forward is to increase broadband and quality consumer choices for high speed internet, not crush the competition.

    Call me crazy, but I actually love Comcast’s cable broadband and their service, but I want them to have some competition. Currently the only alternative is Quest, oh, I’m sorry, Century Link. I keep forgetting they tried to put lipstick on that pig by changing its name.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/10/31/comcast-is-donating-heavily-to-defeat-the-mayor-who-is-bringing-gigabit-fiber-to-seattle/

  • 509

    I have a simple question.

    15 years ago in Chelan, Douglas and Grant counties the PUD’s started providing fiber service to residents. Governor Locke was OWNED by Verizon, so the PUD’s could only wholesale, but could not provide retail services to their owners.

    Anyway, we ended up with many internet providers, several cable and telephone companies mostly locally owned all providing retail services to residents.

    Why didn’t Seattle go this way instead of choosing ONE company. Sounds like Comcast or Gigabit Squared doesn’t matter. In the long run, you still have a monopoly.

    • Viet Nguyen

      Because Seattle commissioned a study under Nickels in 2007 which showed the capital costs for a city-wide fiber network was $410M for the wholesale business. Not sure anyone has that kind of chump change floating around.

      http://www.seattle.gov/broadband/docs/080422FeasibilityReport.pdf

      • 509

        Thanks for the reply.

        Well, fiber isn’t cheap. The capital costs for Chelan Counties system was 125 million. The costs for Douglas and Grant counties are probably in the same ballpark. $410 million for the city of Seattle sounds like a bargain. Priorities….. it is all about governmental priorities.

        Now that Governor Locke is out of office we need to repeal the law that limits PUD’s to wholesale services. Locke paid his campaign debt to Verizon. Time to repeal the mistake.

    • Guest

      We have dark fiber under the city already, they need to light it up. It still makes me laugh that my buddy in Moses hole has a 25MB fiber connection for about 2/3 what I pay Comcrap for a burst speed cable internet that averages 4MB.
      .
      On the McSchwinn vs. Murray side, you can pretty much guess who I’m voting for.

  • Guest

    Don’t worry. We’ve already ensured that McGinn will be reëlected. I can’t wait to kick Comcast, the Ed Murray of Internet providers, out of my house.