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ellensburg12While Seattle struggles to set up a city-wide fiber-to-the-home Internet network, at least one Washington town is well on its way to doing so.

The Ellensburg City Council has approved plans to build a publicly-owned fiber network, agreeing to a $961,000 contract with Canon Construction to lay 13 miles of fiber above and below the town of 18,000 in central Washington.

Previously, Ellensburg was using Charter Communications’ network for free, but the company wanted to renegotiate and charge the city $10,000 per month. Ellensburg elected to instead create a city telecommunications utility for its own network, which could be ready by September 2014.

Outgoing Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is in favor of a publicly-owned broadband network.
Outgoing Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is in favor of a publicly-owned broadband network.

Using taxpayer money to build a public network is a strategy that outgoing Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn outlined for us during an interview earlier this month. McGinn said it would cost the city up to $700 million, but said he’s in favor of this option if the private sector can’t do the job.

“If it’s one big, big thing about broadband fiber to the home, it’s that we have been diligently working to figure out every pathway to get there, including partnering with private sector,” he said. “But if [that] doesn’t work, the natural next step is, in my opinion, it’s got to be treated like a utility — like we treat electricity or water — and not treat it like a private market good.”

McGinn’s comments come as Seattle’s ambitious high-speed Internet plans with a private company called Gigabit Squared appear to be in jeopardy.

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