Thursday, April 24, 2014

Seattle cable monopoly (Comcast)

Seattle is going to renew its cable franchise (monopoly agreements) shortly.  They’re asking for feedback. 
They want our input:
There will be a public meeting at the Miller Community Center on Tuesday May 13, 2014 ~ 6:30-8:00 pm 


Reasons I think this is an important issue:

Broadband access is really sub-par in Seattle and the U.S. in general. In fact, the U.S. is near the lowest in broadband access among developed nations, yet has some of the highest broadband profits. This is because it is not a free market. Broadband is essentially monopoly, cell phones a duopoly. Comcast controls most of the market in both, and has little incentive to provide better access.

One of the first things that Murray did on taking office was to cancel the Gigabit fiber initiative that was I thought was a reall unsung victory of McGinn's. This would have increased internet speeds by a factor of 10 to 100, improved access, all without increasing costs overall. Not coincidentally, Comcast donated heavily to Murray's campaign.

This isn't an issue for most of us who can afford access and don't need high speeds. It's an issue for (a) equity: allowing more people to have reliable access to internet, including those who can't afford Comcast, and (b) ensuring our competitiveness in the technology market.


  1. I do agree with you that Seattle deserves and needs an alternative to Comcast but spreading misinformation isn't going to help this. Murray didn't cancel the Gigabit Squared deal that McGinn was hyping -- it turned out that Gigabit Squared never had funding to implement and actually was insolvent before the election. Check these sources for example: and Seattle was stuck with an unpaid bill for over $50K and we got nothing from McGinn's "initiative" with an unfunded company that had no track record.

    Meanwhile, Murray did take some money from Comcast and McGinn made a big deal of it during the election. The amounts were not enough to justify the statement that "Comcast donated heavily to Murray's campaign" but indeed they did donate. Nevertheless Murray has promised to support an alternative to Comcast -- whether or not he will do this is still to be seen. But it's certain that McGinn's bogus initiative was a bust and wound up costing the city money for nothing in return. Hardly an "unsung victory".

  2. Good points, and I think you're right that mine was an unfair characterization. Apologies.

    However, I disagree with the notion that Gigabit was some kind of sloppily half-baked scam that ended up wasting money needlessly. Gigabit has contracts in place elsewhere, and their projects are moving forward, and it's perfectly normal for the city to have to invest money up front in these situations before companies will buy in. The seattle bike share is a great example of that... the gigabit deal was probably undermined by the election

  3. Fair enough. But it's also hardly a fair characterization that gigabit is some kind of flaky loosely-veiled scam. There's good reason to go with them, they have contracts moving forward in other cities, etc. Killing that -- and for that matter delaying any alternative to comcast until "later" is, in my view, questionable.