Frequently Asked Questions
What is Municipal Internet?
A Municipal Internet utility, sometimes called Municipal Broadband or Community Fiber is a community-owned public internet utility. Internet service would be provided to the home directly by the city, similar to how electricity is provided by Seattle City Light.
As a public utility, the Internet network would be accountable to Seattle residents. While private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are able to pick and choose which houses and which neighborhoods they wish to provide service, a Municipal Internet utility would provide service to every resident in the city. The number one priority of the a municipal network is providing high quality service to Seattle residents.
Would Municipal Internet be any better than current options?
Yes! The City's recently released feasibility study found that a city-owned public Internet utility could provide 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) symmetrical to every neighborhood in Seattle for $45 a month!
There are three private ISPs currently operating in Seattle. Comcast currently offers up to 150 Mbps (download) service in Seattle, with no plans for major upgrades. Centurylink has begun rolling out FTTP gigabit services in two neighborhoods and has reached 22,000 customers, providing service for $130-$150 a month. Wave broadband has announced a pilot to provide FTTP to approximately 600 customers in Eastlake.
Actual access to these services depends on where residents live in the city. Some areas have no options, others have one or two. Often the actual speeds available are dramatically less than what is advertised. A city utility would both encourage competition and ensure that no one went without Internet access.
How Much would it cost?
The recently released feasibility report found the cost of constructing the network to be $440 million dollars. That's half the price of Seattle's recently passed Move Seattle Levy.
In order to raise this money, the report looked at raising this money via a property tax. If that method was used, the network could be paid for over a 5 year period with a property tax of 60 cents for every thousand dollars of assessed value, or $21.58 a month for the median house worth $427,000.
There's also many alternative ways the city could find the capital necessary to build out the network. Regardless of how we pay for it, Seattle is ready to invest in its own technological future. A city-owned network will lower nearly everyone's monthly Internet bill, putting money back in their pocket and keeping it in the community.
Would Seattle's Internet respect net neutrality?
Yes. Net Neutrality is the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, and that your Internet provider shouldn't be able to charge companies like Netflix, Amazon or a future Seattle start-up, artist, or nonprofit extra money in order to offer you content.
With the recent repeal of Net Neutrality, the need for a publicly-run, not-for-profit internet provider is even more immediate. Seattle's new utility would have Net Neutrality enshrined in its governing documents, to ensure that all Seattle residents are able to browse the websites they choose, at the speeds they choose.
How would municipal Internet protect user information?
The City of Seattle recently launched a Digital Privacy Initiative in order to create a set of principles governing how user information is protected.
While private companies have a history of sharing private user information, a public internet utility would be democratically accountable and will have clear policies as to when and how it complied with requests for information.
didn't we already try this?
The City has tried partnering with private companies to expand Internet access in the past. Gigabit Squared was unable to accomplish this goal. The current private providers are expanding speeds in select neighborhoods, but they are still unwilling or unable to ensure all residents of Seattle have equal access to high speed Internet.
Have other cities accomplished this?
Chattanooga, Tennessee provides 1 gigabit-per-second Internet service to their entire community, as does Cedar Falls, Iowa.
These cities found that they were unable to rely on private Internet Service Providers and built out their own public networks. Residents are benefiting from faster service at lower prices. The cities themselves often see additional benefits derived from smarter public utilities. Chattanooga's electricity utility estimates it saves a million dollars a year thanks to their fiberoptic network.