Exit133 is about Tacoma

Municipal Broadband Lessons

In recent months Tacoma has been dealing with questions about the future of our municipally-owned Click! Network - its viability, and a potential partnership that would see the publicly-owned network operated by a private company.

Meanwhile, Seattle has been asking its own questions about the potential of creating its own municipal broadband utility. A report commissioned by Seattle, released last week, said that the project would be too costly and risky for the City to undertake on its own, leading the city to reject the idea. The Seattle public doesn't seem entirely ready to let go of the idea yet. Seattle councilmember Kshama Sawant wrote a blog post advocating for the city to take on the project in the interest of the public good.

Bill Schrier, who served as the City of Seattle's Chief Technology Officer until 2012, has written a list of eight steps for the City of Seattle to consider as it decides what to do next, beginning with clearly understanding the goals it would have for a municipal broadband network, and deciding whether the inevitable "half-billion dollars and years of lawsuits" would really be worth it. Schrier's eight points focus on maximizing the benefit of such an undertaking - primarily universal access and economic development potential.

  1. Declare Internet access a basic human right for Seattle’s residents.
  2. Create a Seattle Technology Opportunity Fund. 
  3. Subsidize Internet access for low-income residents and small business.
  4. Provide free or low cost devices for students and low-income residents. 
  5. Upgrade networks in Seattle’s public schools. 
  6. Invest in computer labs, free wi-fi and maker-spaces.
  7. Community academies and workforce training.
  8. Licensing popular content. 

The main gist of the list is that if the city is to make the significant investment in municipal broadband to support access for all, it needs to fully leverage the potential wins from that access. It's an interesting list of opportunities that could apply outside of Seattle as well.

Tacoma has a head start on the municipal broadband project over Seattle, but it has been loosing ground over the years. The debate over whether to allow private operation of Tacoma's public network is not carved in stone - is there anything we can learn from the Seattle conversation? Is there anything Seattle can learn from Tacoma?


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Comments

Jesse

CenturyLink will buy Click!  How do I know?  Marty Campbell is already answering questions about service:

http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7eYD/centurylink-eat-a-cookie

June 16, 2015 at 10:13 am / Reply / Quote and reply

2 | 0

Phil

It would seem the simple answer to all of this is for folks in the Click service area to ditch Comcast & other multi-nationals & move over to LOWER-priced, LOCALLY-owned & LOCALLY-staffed Click & its LOCALLY-owned ISPs.  I did & wonder why I didn’t a LONG LONG time ago.  My bill is about a third of the price & the same amount EVERY month.  It never doubles or even triples unannounced as it did under Comcast. 

So, in review, Click-In, Comcast-Out!  Problem solved!

June 18, 2015 at 9:06 am / Reply / Quote and reply

5 | 0

paolo

Is Click! a publicly-subsidized entitlement best left to the private market that (outsiders must recall) earlier big-tech investors ignored, compelling TPU to build the system or is Click! a vital public resource controlled by a public authority with options to pursue worthwhile social goals to uplift the city and possibly ultimately its economy without constant concern for meeting quarterly profits for shareholders who might have no ties to the community?  Sure, the financial losses at Click! should not be deemed acceptable because the public in general ultimately covers them but does the system need to be privatized, giving up the potential social benefits of the investment?  TPU’s creation in 1893 had been to rid the city of greedy private utility operators who provided shoddy service. Today, can any sale or lease terms for Click! specify goals important to Tacoma policy-leaders who have a duty to try to uplift impovershed areas of the city and require a private firm to honor such responsibilities.  Just as TPU works to enhance salmon runs at its hydroelectric projects at a cost to ratepayers to comply with agreements with Native Americans, would a private firm involved with Click! accept contractual conditions of Tacoma’s elected leaders to make sure that lower-income Tacomans have fair and guaranteed affordable Internet access? The devil is in the details but Internet access is a bridge to span economic divides.  Don’t screw this one up.

June 18, 2015 at 4:05 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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