Why Municipal Broadband?

Seattle is a high tech, entrepreneurial city, and far too many residents lack access to affordable, high-speed Internet. We can be the first city of our size to build a city-owned Internet provider, just as we have done with electricity through Seattle City Light. Other cities have done just this, and been able to provide their residents with higher speeds at lower costs. Seattle has the added advantage of already having 550 miles of high-speed fiber in the ground already.

A 2014 report by the city found that "nearly 20% of Seattle residents do not have any Internet access.” Entire neighborhoods still lack access to Internet speeds necessary to take part in the modern economy. Without access, residents may not be able to apply for jobs, utilize city websites, finish their homework, operate a small business, display art, shop online, or video chat with a doctor from the comfort of their homes.

As a city-owned public entity, municipal Internet would be democratically controlled and accountable. Seattle’s Internet would guarantee that public Internet respected the rules of Net Neutrality even if private companies do not. A city-owned option could also drive down competitor prices and improve their level of service.

For Seattle to remain one of the leaders of technological innovation, we need more competition and consumer options when it comes to broadband. The current market of private Internet service providers has failed to reach everyone in the city, leaving 93,000 people without home Internet access. The biggest hurdle is price, 80% of Seattle residents say the Internet is essential, but only 30% indicate it is affordable.
— Councilmember Rob Johnson, District 4


Our Mission

Upgrade Seattle is dedicated to creating a publicly-owned Municipal Broadband utility focused on equity.  Private Internet providers have failed to serve every neighborhood in Seattle, and continue to charge unaffordable rates simply because they face no competition.  Seattle voters strongly approve of creating a public Internet utility, and we will continue to channel their enthusiasm in order to make their voices heard.

Municipal broadband means making the internet a public utility – city owned and city operated – because internet access, like electricity, water, and garbage pick-up, is an essential part of our daily life. The purpose of a public internet utility is to provide high-speed, affordable and equitable internet coverage to all Seattle neighborhoods, residents, and businesses. Municipal broadband can be a powerful lever against the digital divide that condemns people to the isolation and reduced economic opportunities experienced by many of our low-income, disabled, and people of color community members.
— Councilmember Kshama Sawant, District 3