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Former Mayor Mike McGinn discusses the Pioneer Square broadband project with then City of Seattle CTO Bill Schrier

Comcast has won a high-profile contract to provide high-speed Internet access to businesses and residences in Pioneer Square, an important development given the number of Internet and gaming companies located in Seattle’s historic district.

“Comcast has actually wanted to serve this area for years, because of its reputation as a business incubator,” said Comcast’s Todd Elliott in prepared remarks today in a press conference with Mayor Mike McGinn. “However, every time we did a cost benefit analysis, the numbers just didn’t pencil out—that is, until now. The huge cost of digging  up the streets and sidewalks in this historic area of Seattle was simply too expensive.”

Now, through a proposal by Mayor McGinn, Comcast will be able to utilize existing city-laid conduit to bring high-speed Internet to the neighborhood. Internet connectivity in Pioneer Square is notoriously bad, driven in part by the old brick buildings and historic designation which makes it tough for ISPs to tear up the streets.

Comcast spokesman Steve Kipp tells GeekWire that the company hopes to have high-speed Internet serving businesses along First Avenue some time later this fall. It is targeting speeds of 1 Mbps to 10 Gbps.

Conduit is already being laid from Cherry Street to King Street on First Avenue South, with crews at Seattle City Light placing electrical conduit under the street as part of the Viaduct deconstruction project. Since the street was already being torn up, Mayor McGinn pushed a plan forward to put empty conduit under the street which could house fiber optic cable.

It was unclear whether any other companies bid on the project, but Comcast’s interests were previously reported by GeekWire. (Update: The City of Seattle confirms that Comcast was the only bidder on the project).

And the new Internet connectivity project has already attracted the interest of one startup company. Bellevue-based OneHub, a 10-person company led by CEO Charles Mount, appeared at the press conference with Mayor McGinn to announce that the company is planning a move to Pioneer Square next month.

More on some of the other improvements coming to Pioneer Square, including cheaper parking rates and the possibility of a public bathroom, from the Seattle P-I’s Chris Grygiel.

Previously on GeekWire: Mayor McGinn promises broadband for parts of Pioneer Square

Here are Elliott’s prepared remarks from the press conference:

I am Todd Elliott. I oversee Comcast’s Metro Ethernet business here in Washington state. My business unit primarily serves medium sized businesses of 20 to 500 employees with broadband services utilizing the kind of fiber optic lines we will be installing here in Pioneer Square. But Comcast also serves a great number of small businesses and of course our very important consumer market.

Quite frankly, we can’t wait to start knocking on doors and pulling our fiber facilities through the city’s conduit and begin serving businesses in Pioneer Square, including the growing number of Internet start ups that have located here.

Comcast has actually wanted to serve this area for years, because of its reputation as a business incubator. However, every time we did a cost benefit analysis, the numbers just didn’t pencil out—that is, until now. The huge cost of digging up the streets and sidewalks in this historic area of Seattle was simply too expensive.

Now, thanks to the city’s innovative proposal, we will be able to connect businesses in Pioneer Square to our next generation fiber optic network without digging up the streets and sidewalks; and, more importantly, without causing a major disruption to the neighborhood.

At this point, many of you may be asking why Comcast? I thought you only served residential customers?

While we definitely are known more for the residential side of the business, the truth is we’ve been providing broadband services to businesses for years. We started by serving small businesses with high-speed Internet, phone and video services and have gradually moved to larger businesses.

At the same time, we’ve been investing heavily in our network. We now have thousands of miles of fiber optic lines in Washington state, including a couple of hundred miles within the city limits of Seattle. And we are building more every day.

What that means for businesses here in Pioneer Square is that they never again have to worry about a lack of bandwidth. We believe our fiber rich network will provide reliable, scalable capacity that can meet their needs well into the future.

More importantly, it means the businesses of Pioneer Square can have their cake and eat it too. They can remain in a vibrant, historic neighborhood with all the amenities it has to offer and be competitive in the market too.

This is good news for Comcast and we believe it is even better news for the City of Seattle.

Thank you Mayor McGinn for this opportunity to serve the new Comcast customers of Pioneer Square!


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