Tag: "commentary"

Posted April 21, 2014 by Lisa Gonzalez

In a recent SLOG post from the Stranger, Ansel Herz commented on Mayor Ed Murray's recent statement on broadband in Seattle. Murray's statement included:

Finding a job, getting a competitive education, participating in our democracy, or even going to work for some, requires high speed internet access. I have seen people say online, "I don’t need a road to get to work, I need high speed internet." Seattle would never leave the construction of roads up to a private monopoly, nor should we allow the City’s internet access to be constructed and managed by a private monopoly.

It is incredibly clear to me and residents throughout the City of Seattle, that the City’s current high speed internet options are not dependable enough, are cost prohibitive for many, and have few (if any) competitive options.

The Mayor also hinted that if the City needs a municipal broadband network, he would "help lead the way."

As a Seattleite, Herz knows firsthand about the lack of connectivity options in the area. Herz writes:

This is both encouraging and disappointingly tentative language from the mayor. It seems to cast municipal broadband as a last resort. Municipal broadband is a no-f*cking-brainer. [our *]

Herz turned to Chris for perspective:

"I have seen this from many Mayors who talk about how someone should do something but we don't always see concrete actions because of the difficulty and the immense opposition from some powerful companies like Comcast," Christopher Mitchell, the Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative, who's worked with cities across the country on this question, tells me.

Seattle doesn't know what to expect from a Mayor that Comcast tried to buy (we suspect they did not succeed but have nonetheless sent a loud message). It is encouraging to see that the issue has not simply disappeared, but Herz and his neighbors want more:

What are you waiting for, Ed?...

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Posted October 27, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

My colleague in Portland, Maine, and I wrote this commentary for Maine's Portland Press Herald.

Last January, as the economy spiraled downward, Time Warner did what no other company could have gotten away with under the circumstances: It imposed a price increase of as much as 5.5 percent on its Maine customers.

Meanwhile, the state's other major broadband Internet provider, FairPoint, has amassed a stunning track record of mismanagement and abysmal customer service, including leaving many customers without Internet service for weeks.

While FairPoint's predecessor, Verizon, was a better-run company, we should not forget that it too gave Maine short shrift by refusing to invest in upgrading its networks throughout much of northern New England.

When it comes to large, absentee-owned corporations, profits invariably trump community needs. Combine that with a lack of competition and you get what we now have: slow, over-priced, inadequate and often unreliable broadband service.

How can Maine's economy thrive when our basic infrastructure is so poor by global standards? Maine lags many states even as the entire United States falls farther behind other countries. In Sweden and Japan, people pay much less for connections that are many times faster. And they have many providers from which to choose.


Maine ought to do what a growing number of communities across the country are doing: break their dependence on monopoly providers by investing in publicly owned broadband infrastructure.

One of the best examples is in Burlington, Vt. Burlington Telecom, a city department, built a universal, next-generation, fully fiber-optic network that offers fast broadband, cable television, and telephone services at extremely competitive rates in Vermont's largest city. While the fiber network itself is publicly owned, competitors are welcome to offer their own Internet, telephone, and cable services on the system giving subscribers a choice of providers.

Burlington Telecom makes a good financial sense.

Its infrastructure delivers ultra-fast broadband to schools and city buildings at a fraction of the cost of what these agencies would pay to lease services, saving taxpayer money. Subscriber revenues over the next 15 years will pay back the bonds used to build the network. Plus, consumers save by having access...

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