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