They’re planning a Slow Internet Walk Wednesday, from Comcast’s downtown office to City Hall to demand municipal broadband and “protest terrible customer service, sluggish internet speed, and anti-consumer business practices,” according to the event page.
Brett Hamil, a local comedian, writer, and municipal broadband advocate, is organizing the event. He lives in the Mount Baker neighborhood and struggles with frequent outages. When he lived in Beacon Hill, he says his Internet speed was one-tenth the national average.
“If you look at a map of the worst Internet service in Seattle, it’s shocking how accurately it lines up with historic maps of redlined and segregated neighborhoods,”he said. “We believe that broadband access is a social justice issue and that Comcast and CenturyLinks’ monopolies are a barrier to quality, affordable Internet.”
Comcast, on the other hand, says it has been working to improve Seattle service in recent years.
“We understand the importance of our services in the daily lives of our customers and are working hard to create a best-in-class experience for them every day,” said Walter Neary, Comcast’s director of communications. “In the last six years, we have increased speeds four times and have invested $1 billion in Washington to upgrade our reliability and capacity and to prepare for new gigabit services.”
Frustration with Comcast and CenturyLink is a main focus in Hamil’s YouTube series. His latest video has details about Wednesday’s event and the motivation behind it. Watch below:
In September, the Seattle City Council added an amendment to the city’s 20-year master plan to “add an affirmative commitment to study and potentially implement a municipal broadband system.” But the addition does not include a concrete date or funding plan to implement the service.
Hamil calls it a “starting point,” but sees a number of obstacles preventing Seattle from implementing public internet. Mayor Ed Murray, he says, is one of them.
“There have already been seven studies done over the past 20 years,” he said. “The last one was highly promising and deemed it feasible with high upsides, but the mayor didn’t see it that way. We know that Mayor Murray doesn’t support municipal broadband — telecom giants donated $10K in PAC money toward his election against an opponent who did support it.”
(GeekWire has reached out to Mayor Murray’s office and Comcast. We will update this post with comments when we hear back).
Despite barriers, things may be looking up for advocates of municipal broadband. Yesterday, Seattle councilmembers Rob Johnson and Kshama Sawant introduced an amendment to the mayor’s budget to allocate $300,000 for public internet. The funds would go toward creating a 10-year implementation plan and hiring one full-time employee to manage it, according to Devin Glaser, Director of municipal broadband advocacy group Upgrade Seattle.
“There’s two pathways for this amendment to become law,” said Glaser. “Councilmember Burgess can add it to the full budget package he proposes over the next few days or five councilmembers can vote to add it separately come November.”
The Slow Internet Walk is taking place Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 12 p.m.