Incumbent Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn expressed worry for Gigabit Squared's plans to bring high-speed Internet to Seattle.
In an interview with GeekWire today, outgoing Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn acknowledged that he’s worried about Gigabit Squared’s plans to bring high-speed Internet to Seattle.

Financing problems are forcing Gigabit Squared to delay plans to implement a high-speed Internet network in 14 Seattle neighborhoods using the city’s dormant “dark fiber” network.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn — a longtime champion of the project who will leave office at the end of the year — acknowledged the setback in an interview with GeekWire this afternoon. He said Gigabit Squared, the company behind the project, is having problems securing financing to install the network, and he raised questions about the project’s future.

“We’re now a year into it and the question is, will it work or not?” McGinn said inside his office at City Hall. He acknowledged that he’s “very concerned it’s not going to work.”

GeekWire contacted Gigabit Squared for comment, but a company representative said executives were unavailable for comment this afternoon.

Gigabit Squared said it would  deliver its service to these 14 neighborhoods by the end of 2014. The arrows point to the launch areas — U-District and Capitol Hill — that were supposed to have service by early next year.
Gigabit Squared said it would deliver its service to these 14 neighborhoods by the end of 2014. The arrows point to the launch areas — U-District and Capitol Hill — that were supposed to have service by early next year.

McGinn first announced the public-private partnership with Gigabit amid a great deal of fanfare one year ago after the city released a request for information to private companies interested in using the city’s 500 miles of unused cabling throughout the city.

Gigabit announced its prices eight months later, in August of this year, and had planned to begin its initial rollout of Gigabit Seattle to two of the 12 neighborhoods — University District and Capitol Hill — by Q1 of 2014. But that has since been delayed, with no new launch dates announced.

McGinn, who will be succeeded by state Sen. Ed Murray next month, said that if a private company can’t raise the money to build out a fiber-to-the-premises network with an open architecture, it’s time for Seattle to consider using tax dollars for a city-run network. 

“It’s one of the things I regret that I can’t be around to be a part of, because I know what decision I’d make,” he said.

The Gigabit Squared plan became a subplot in the election after McGinn raised questions about donations from Comcast to Murray’s campaign. Murray, however, said at the time that he supported the plan to bring alternative high-speed Internet to Seattle — countering McGinn’s attempts to label him as ”Comcast’s candidate.”

McGinn said today that the incumbent Internet providers like Comcast are “not upgrading their systems in any meaningful way.”

“That means cities like Seattle are falling behind and will fall behind other places around the globe if we don’t upgrade the service,” he added.

Reached by phone this afternoon, mayor-elect Murray said it was the first he’d heard of the problem with Gigabit and needed more information before commenting.

McGinn noted that “we haven’t given up on the private sector,” but said that if he were continuing as mayor, he’d start garnering political support to build a municipal fiber utility. That’s actually something the mayor considered back in 2010, after a consultant recommended that the City find a way to build an open-access fiber-to-the-premises communication infrastructure to meet Seattle’s goals and objectives.

But at that time, McGinn believed the risk was too high to ask taxpayers to fund a project on that scale — $600 or $700 million, he noted. On top of that, McGinn also foresaw political and legal obstacles.

gigabitsquaredlogo“It was easier politically, and there was obviously less risk to go with the private sector at the time,” he said.

Now, though, it seems McGinn is at least somewhat supportive of having government build out a high-speed network with open architecture — to encourage competition — that can reach the masses. He talked about Google choosing Kansas City as its initial test-bed for Google Fiber, and said Seattle should have the same Internet options for its citizens.

“The kids are moving to Kansas City right now because they want to get that fiber,” McGinn said. “I don’t want to say anything bad about Kansas City, but we want the kids to come here. We want the entrepreneurs who want that high speed to come here.”


Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • SeattleGeorge

    Whatever McGinn, its not coming to Fremont, LAME. Oh, but it is shooting into Ballard?!

  • Alki Slide

    Comcast must have paid him off..

    • That Guy

      The minute that there’s real demand for gigabit Ethernet, Comcast has more than enough bandwith to offer it. They don’t need to pay off anyone to squash that kind of competition like a bug.

  • CMM

    Seems to me that a bit of investigation beforehand might have been a good idea…such as have they ever built a functioning broadband network? It’s all a tangled deep web of who you know in politics..dirty dirty. Try a simple google on the company/owner-‘s and you will see. Chicago will be right behind Seattle since they “won” the buildout there as well. All will slowly fail at the expense of the taxpayers.

    • Karen Archer Perry

      What taxpayer support? City support was in name only. Whether it’s Gigabit Squared or another vendor, it’s disappointing that this high-tech, highly educated city has such mediocre broadband.

      • CMM

        I’m not sure what industry you are in but in the broadband industry and these deals all relates back to city, county, federal funds supporting these projects. It might be defined as private funding or some other bs lingo to deceive the hopeful end user. But from Gigabit, to Chicago, to FRBA, NFBA to DC to local good ol boy like Ansboury it’s all inner related politics of who knows who and the age old story of winning the projects with inside info so the bidder comes in just at the right number to win. And who pays in the beginning and in the end knowing or unknowingly is the taxpayer that gets promised a dream of a great amazing product and they get crap in the end. Does Seattle residents even know the full background of Gigabits owner/’s, and the multiple companies and direct FCC/DC relations or lawsuits? I don’t think Seattle does.

        • That Guy

          I am convinced that Gigabit Squared has never been anything more than the techie version of a political astroturfing outfit. They run around and sprinkle fairy dust in front of the 5% of the voters who care, with no intention or ability to even begin to make it happen.

  • guest

    That would explain this very recent opening – (note – the listing on City website has more interesting detail but not linkable)

    • That Guy

      All that job really does is supervise maintenance of the PBXs and Ethernet networks, which is about all Seattle’s city gov’t can ever hope to accomplish.

  • Robby Andrews

    Sadly, Seattle is hampered by CenturyLink and other incumbents. CenturyLink is the worst major ILEC, and I’m sure they and Comcast had a hand in killing this idea. Even partially public broadband is still a challenge because of the amount of money required to get a network up and running.

    • That Guy

      Neither Comcast not CenturyLink has the least bit of authority to tell the city of Seattle what it can do with its own assets. Take off the tinfoil hats, and look at the shysters who were involved in this phony-baloney press releasemanship.

  • Nathaniel William Schmoll

    This is an example of government involvement and how it hampers anything it touches. I just moved to Seattle and use They already provide what Gigabit Squared hopes to someday offer.

    • Doobian

      Government involvement? What government involvement? There needs to be much more. Not all of us live in condos downtown.

      • John van Oppen

        we (condointernet) are ironically mostly in apartments, and are putting a lot of resources into expansion in areas outside of downtown… We agree, gigabit is the future!

        • That Guy

          Of course you’re in apartments. Any idiot who’s spent even a minimal amount of time looking at the economics knows that single-family buildouts are God’s own money pit.

    • John G.

      private things work really well when you’re rich enough to live in a downtown condo. Let them eat cake indeed.

  • spacem00se

    Maybe the mayor should have done some research into Gigabit Squared to see if they actually had the money to build such a network, I know they have no experience in building/operating an ISP. He’s already quick to suggest raising taxes to pay for it all, when in reality it wasn’t supposed to cost citizens anymore than what we originally spent over building the network back in the 90s.

    If any of you honestly think this is the work of Comcast, you are high on crack.

  • Guest

    Dear Ed “Comcast” Murray,

    Congratulations on having won the mayorship! Comcast did a great job of paying for your election. (For those who don’t know, Comcast paid Murray a lot of money, and 95% of elections are won by the man who has the most money.)

    Now comes the more challenging part, Comcast Murray.

    (Presses button; 365-0-0-0 appears on a large screen)

    This timer will start counting down when you take office next month. Before it reaches all zeroes, we the people of the city of Seattle WILL have Gigabit Internet using our city’s dark fibre. That’s 365 days, or one year.

    If Comcast Murray fails to deliver on this project in one year, we will begin collecting signatures for an initiative in 2015 to recall Comcast Murray. Installing a mayor who supports our values should be pretty easy. A simple Kickstarter, raising $1 from each of 20,001 Seattleites, will generate more money than Comcast paid you. Remember, more money means victory.

    (Points to countdown board)

    Comcast Murray, the ball’s in your court. Are you ready to govern, or are you still at the bank cashing the cheques that Comcast sent you?

    One year. Gigabit Internet. Do it or your job will soon be vacant.


    • That Guy

      Good luck with that. I’m sure he’s quakin’ in his loafers.

  • Mike Mathieu

    Bummer. We moved Front Seat to Capital Hill in part because of access to the future gigabit network.

    • That Guy

      First things first. It’s “Capitol Hill,” not “Capital Hill.” I realize you’re a geek and too cool to be literate, but what the hell. More importantly, if you actually moved to “Capital Hill” for access to “the future gigabit network,” then I would seriously question your acumen in a number of dimensions. Do your venture capitalists know how dim you are?

  • clibou

    Mount Vernon, WA operates a successful city owned fiber network. Private biz, city offices, schools, colleges and the Port of Skagit businesses pay private internet biz for connections. This P3 offers high speed without high tax. A Pioneer Sq big data biz recently expanded into MtV because of high-speed. Small algorithmic traders use the fiber to place ads in realtime.

    • That Guy

      Assuming this is true, it’s not the residential service that Gigabit Squared (whoever and whatever they actually were) was talking about.

  • The Establishment

    This is why we need a public internet utility in Seattle RIGHT NOW. City Light is a hugely successful electric utility, why can’t we do it with internet service?

    • That Guy

      Seattle City Light is not a “hugely successful electric utility.” They are a lazy, barely functioning bureaucracy that’s in the midst of implementing a 25% increase in prices even though their fuel cost is zero. If that’s what you call “hugely successful,” then you’d better not ask the city to implement gigabit Internet. They can’t even figure out how to keep ice off the bridges here.

      • nope

        WTF are you talking about? No resource costs “zero,” and even if it does, it costs money to deliver it and build out and maintain the system in a rapidly growing area like ours. City Light has some of the absolute lowest rates in the country for cities our size, doesn’t run on coal, and they just won a customer satisfaction award in May.

        • That Guy

          Since they don’t pay for fuel, they ought to have the lowest rates. But those rates are going to go up by 25% in the next few years. “Customer satisfaction award?” Oh please. Seattle City Light is lazy and way too expensive.

  • Paul Furio

    No no no. Gigabit fiber was a huge plus for us. Now, we’re stuck with 5MBit DSL, or flaky Wave Broadband? It’s 2013, and the Seattle area is home to two of the biggest software companies in the world, with satellite offices of two more, plus a continually growing tech scene. How can we not have at least widespread 100MBit access across this city? It’s outrageous.

    • That Guy

      You don’t need 100 Mb/s to write software. Seattle’s city gov’t has more pressing things on its plate. The schools suck. The streets are falling apart. Downtown is an open pit sewer in many places. They can’t even master what L.A. figured out 50 years ago, the timing of traffic lights.

      You want 100 Mb/s internet? Do it on your own nickel.

      • clibou

        Correct 100 Mb/s isn’t needed to write software. Gigabit is required to operate modern business in areas like high frequency trading, low latency gaming, moving big data around. Use cases like Russell Investments, boutique game studios, Boeing and the many small businesses creating jobs in high-speed high-tech.

        • That Guy

          If Russell or Boeing needs gigabit Ethernet, they can just order a fat pipe into their building. If a “boutique game studio” one of the “many small businesses creating jobs in high-speed high tech” can rent space in a building on a fiber ring. It’s not exactly rare.

          This phony Gigabit Squared deal purported to be a residential rollout. This was never anything but a piece of candy waved in front of the faces of gullible techie geeks. Your selfishness is exceeded only by your gullibility.

    • CMM

      Outrageous. What’s outrageous is the sense of entitlement “I want I want”. Really Paul if you want a circuit served on a silver platter for free with no work then keep sitting there doing nothing and get nothing. Now if you want to stop holding out your hand and thinking its a right to have broadband then crack open your mind and wallet and reach out to your local wisp and request a point to point then you can pay for it. But that requires losing the “I deserve it attitude”. If Seattle or other states don’t want to deal with dirty political fairy dust bs promises. Then try

  • That Guy

    By the way, Gigabit Squared and McCheese originally announced that the first rollouts would be in the fall of 2013. My comment at the time was that I’d be happy to bet $1,000 that Gigabit Squared wouldn’t have 100 truly arm’s length, paying customers within five years. This was never serious.

  • Scott Carter

    Don’t worry, by the time they figure this out, Seattle City Council will have driven so many small businesses into extinction, the final straw with Boeing moving Dreamliner production to another state coupled with $15.00 min wage (by then instilled via the newly-elected socialist hag to the Council) will make Seattle an unlivable city. Count on it. (Amazon won’t be able to make a difference by then, sorry to say)

  • Gary Davis

    Maybe Seattle can get the company that did the ACA network involved. They did such a wonderful job, and come highly recommended by the Obama’s…..

  • Martin O’Shield

    The GigabitSquared / Outgoing CTO John Tolva / ” Black Faces ” deal needs investigating ASAP!

    Bruce Montgomery, Laura Lane, Pierre Clark continues to deceive the African American Community on broadband they won’t be able to access:

    In 2012, the barely 1 year old City of Chicago Chief Technology Officer, John Tolva, announced the following Broadband Challenge:

    The Woodlawn Broadband Expansion Partnership L3C was formed to engage
    with the Communities who would benefit from the announced Broadband

    “The State of Illinois is kicking in $2 million, while the University of Chicago is committing $1 million now and plans to raise another $1 million in the surrounding communities. = Youtube Video Proof:

    Published on Oct 17, 2012

    Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced today that Gigabit Squared is the
    recipient of an Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge award. Illinois’
    investment of $2 million will help support Gigabit Squared’s nationally
    renowned Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program (GNGP) to create jobs,
    improve neighborhood safety, enhance education and improve health care
    services. Gigabit Squared, the architects of next generation networks,
    will deploy gigabit fiber and wireless in Chicago’s Mid-South Side.

    “We now know the identity of at least one of the six cities benefiting
    from Gigabit Squared’s ambitious plan to bring to gigabit broadband
    connectivity to college towns across the US. Chicago isn’t exactly a
    college town, but it is home of the University of Chicago. The south
    side neighborhoods surrounding that storied institution that will
    receive Gigabit Squared’s first fiber network deployment.”

    “The first phase of the project will bring gigabit fiber connections to
    4,825 homes, businesses, schools, libraries and healthcare institutions
    in the Hyde Park neighborhood U of C calls home, as well as surrounding
    communities. For those of you unfamiliar with Chicago, the south side
    contains many of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, but right in the
    middle of them all, Hyde Park sticks out like a beacon of affluence.”

    Everyone was believing this. So much so, Bruce Montgomery interviewed the following

    L3C Co-Directors on his “Tech Access TV Show”

    “All of the City of Chicago to include ALL of the communities who can
    possibly be affected by broadband Fiber that’s going to be laid on the
    south side of Chicago”

    Pierre A. Clark & Laura Lane
    Co-Directors, Woodlawn Broadband Expansion Partnership L3C
    Southside Broadband Expansion Collaborative NFP
    Co-Founder/Executive Director

    TechAccessTV: Laura Lane & Pierre Clark of Broadband Woodlawn

    All of the above was in the year 2012.

    October 30, 2013, this youtube video posted by the OpenGovChicago Meetup
    Group hosting now OUTGOING Chief Technology Officer, John Tolva, who
    was explaining the

    “City Technology Plan” states the following @ 29 minutes 4 seconds into the video:

    Someone asked John Tolva:

    “How can you ASSURE us that the Broadband access will be there? ”

    He essentially answers her, as you’ll view, there isn’t going to be Open
    Access, and as a matter of fact, the pricing of the Fiber can be HIGHER
    than current market rates.

    @ 33:26 I follows the question/point with Tolva:

    “My fear is that, (as you’ll see on the video), the South & West
    sides of Chicago will become like the City of Aurora where its citizens
    have been paying the Fiber Broadband Fiber Optic providers for ”
    Broadband bandwidth ” they YET to touch going on 7 years now.”

    During Community Broadband Economic Development Conference held in Tinley Park, I and others asked the City of Chicago, Illinois Broadband’s Partnership for a connected Illinois, GigabitSquared, SSMA, any/all panelists:

    Will there be “Open Access” as promised and at what rates?

    We’ve learned that they are NOT intending on laying FTTH, nor allowing Open Access.

    Chicago’s Tech Chief Resigns | Progress Illinois

    Oct 22, 2013 – Chicago’s Chief Technology Officer John Tolva has
    resigned. He is leaving his post on November 1, ending a two-and-a-half
    year tenure with …




  • GiveMeLiberty

    I was hoping that GBsquared will drive the prices down in the market. I remember reading a while ago about Condiinternet’s folks being skeptical about the GB squared plans and pricing. Looks like they were right. In any case, the city should probably ask for a new bid to see if they can get someone else to come up with a feasible business plan.

Job Listings on GeekWork