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Mayor: Municipal Broadband Would Be “The Largest Tax Increase In Seattle”

April 6, 2016

space-needleLate last month Seattle, Wash.’s mayor, Ed Murray, reiterated his belief that building a government-owned broadband system in his city is too costly.

Murray once supported the idea of a government network. In fact, he acknowledged last month that he was “excited” about the prospect of government-owned broadband when he entered office.

What happened?

According to Murray, “[T]hese studies came back and indicated that it would be literally the largest tax increase in Seattle.” As the Coalition for the New Economy reported last summer, those studies showed a government-owned network (GON) would cost Seattle between $480 million and $665 million to build and, just to break even, the city would need 43 percent of its homes to subscribe to broadband plans costing $75 a month. (As Seattle Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller noted at the time, “Even the most successful municipal broadband utilities don’t achieve that take rate.”)

Instead of building a GON, the city has focused on partnering with the private sector and on bridging the digital divide. According to the Seattle Times, the city “ partnered with Google to lend people Wi-Fi hot-spot devices through the Seattle Public Library … “works with various companies, including telecommunications giants CenturyLink and Comcast, to expand service across the city,” and “is getting rid of some regulatory barriers.”

That approach, as Mayor Murray acknowledges, is much better for taxpayers.