Advocates of municipal broadband in Seattle are expected to win a small victory at Thursday’s City Council meeting.
Councilmember Rob Johnson is planning to add an amendment to the Mayor’s Comprehensive Master Plan that puts municipal broadband — public internet regulated like a utility — into the city’s long-term growth plans.
If it passes, the city will “add an affirmative commitment to study and potentially implement a municipal broadband system,” but the amendment does not include a concrete date or funding plan to implement the service. That’s significant because financing has been the biggest obstacle preventing Seattle from adopting municipal broadband.
Last summer, a study commissioned by the city of Seattle determined that building a municipal gigabit fiber network would cost $480 million to $665 million, a project too costly for the city to take on without outside financing or a major partnership.
Plans for public internet in Seattle have stagnated since the results of the study came out but the amendment to the Mayor’s plan would reopen the conversation.
Devin Glaser, policy and political director of the public broadband advocacy group Upgrade Seattle, expects the council to approve the amendment.
“I don’t foresee it as being a controversial issue, just because there is no price tag associated with it, but you never know,” he said. “There’s definitely internet service providers who don’t want this to go through. They’d like to keep it out of the plan, so if they have any ability to stop it, I’m sure they’d like to. But I’m sure with enough public support, no one is going to vote it away. The city wants this. The constituents want this.”
Glaser and other municipal broadband advocates are asking members of their community to attend the meeting Thursday at 2 p.m. to show support. The amendment, a small section of the mayor’s broader 92-page plan, is below.