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Conduit for fiber in Pioneer Square

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is pushing to bring high-speed fiber-optic connections to businesses in the city, starting in Pioneer Square. But how far should the city go into an area where private companies compete?

The latest episode of the public affairs program City Inside/Out on the Seattle Channel does a nice job exploring the debate over the proper role for city government in developing the city’s broadband infrastructure. Guests on the program include representatives of Comcast and Qwest, along with Seattle’s chief technology officer, Bill Schrier.

City officials and business owners see it as an economic development issue, reasoning that many companies, particularly tech startups, won’t set up shop where they can’t get high-speed connections. But representatives of the telecom companies point to improvements that they’ve made in recent years as evidence that they’re serving the market, and that government doesn’t need to step in.

Program host C.R. Douglas also visits Tacoma, home of the municipal Click! network. Officials there say Click! probably would not have been built in the 1990s had there been the type of competition that exists in the industry today. However, the argument is that Click! also appears to have forced private companies to keep their rates down.

For more on the topic, see GeekWire’s  earlier story on the city’s Pioneer Square plans.

Thanks to Isaac Alexander for the tip.

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