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Seattle Just Says No

November 19, 2015

space-needleAs Coalition for the New Economy (CNE) readers know, this summer and fall Seattle city council members have been debating whether to build a government-owned broadband network.

On Monday, the council voted on the matter, opting not to approve a $5 million municipal broadband pilot program that would have created a government network in the city’s North Beacon Hill neighborhood. Geekwire said the decision was “a major blow to groups that want to see the Internet treated like a public utility akin to electricity.” The website also noted the pilot program would have “served as an experiment to test the feasibility of a much larger, and more expensive, city-wide buildout.” (As CNE reported in June, that citywide network would cost taxpayers between $480 million and $665 million to complete.)

According to Geekwire, Seattle Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller and the city’s budget director, Ben Noble, wrote a letter to the council members urging them to vote no on the pilot project. The letter argued because of “the high risk any ensuing citywide network poses to the City’s and the taxpayers’ finances … a pilot is not a wise allocation of existing resources at this time.”

Activists say they are not done pushing government-owned broadband in the city, however. One activist said, “I don’t consider [the council’s vote] a blow” and that she was “optimistic about 2016.”