Plan begins with demonstration fiber project in 12 Seattle neighborhoods
SEATTLE (December 13, 2012) – Today Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced that the City of Seattle has reached an agreement with broadband developer Gigabit Squared to develop and operate an ultra high-speed fiber-to-the-home/fiber-to-the-business broadband network. The plan will begin with a demonstration fiber project in twelve Seattle neighborhoods and includes wireless methods to deploy services more quickly to other areas in the city. The initiative, leveraging the City of Seattle’s excess fiber capacity, the expertise of Gigabit Squared, and the community leadership of The University of Washington, aims to stimulate business opportunities, spur advancements in health care, education, and public safety, and enhance quality of life for the residents and businesses of Seattle.
“This is a very promising proposal that can help bring 21st century infrastructure to Seattle,” said McGinn. “I’ve heard from residents and businesses that Seattle needs better broadband service, and this agreement lays the groundwork for building that network. I’m excited to work with the University of Washington and Gigabit Squared to provide new Internet service choices.”
The City, the University and Gigabit Squared have signed a Memorandum of Understanding and a Letter of Intent that allows Gigabit Squared to begin raising the capital needed to conduct engineering work and to build out the demonstration fiber network. The project is the second city project announced by Gigabit Squared as part of its multi-million dollar Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program. Gigabit Squared will collaborate with the City of Seattle and the University of Washington to initiate a process for sharing information and soliciting input on the project from members of the affected communities.
“The UW, the City of Seattle and Gigabit Squared are working together to make Seattle the most wired and connected city in the nation and to continue its role as a major leader in the innovation economy of the 21st century,” said University of Washington President Michael Young. “This new level of high-speed connectivity will provide essential infrastructure to help us address some of our biggest problems in the areas of climate, the environment, education, energy, and transportation. It’s definitely a game-changer, and we are delighted to be one of the driving forces in making this a reality.”
The network, called Gigabit Seattle (www.gigabitseattle.com) includes three pieces: Fiber directly to the home and business in twelve demonstration neighborhoods, dedicated gigabit broadband wireless connections to multifamily housing and offices across Seattle, and next generation mobile wireless internet.
1) Fiber to the home and business: Gigabit Seattle plans to build out a fiber-to-the-home/fiber-to-the-business (FTTH/FTTB) network to more than 50,000 households and businesses in 12 demonstration neighborhoods, connected together with the excess capacity that Gigabit Seattle will lease from the City’s own fiber network. Gigabit Seattle’s technology intends to offer gigabit speeds that are up to 1,000 times faster than the typical high-speed connection.
The initial 12 neighborhoods include: Area 1: the University of Washington’s West Campus District, Area 2: South Lake Union, Area 3: First Hill/Capitol Hill/Central Area, Area 4: the University of Washington’s Metropolitan Tract in downtown Seattle, Area 5: the University of Washington’s Family Housing at Sand Point, Area 6: Northgate, Area 7: Volunteer Park Area, Area 8: Beacon Hill and SODO Light Rail Station and Areas 9-12: Mount Baker, Columbia City, Othello, and Rainier Beach.
2) Dedicated gigabit to multifamily housing and offices: To provide initial coverage beyond the 12 demonstration neighborhoods, Gigabit Seattle intends to build a dedicated gigabit broadband wireless umbrella to cover Seattle providing point-to-point radio access up to one gigabit per second. This will be achieved by placing fiber transmitters on top of 38 buildings across Seattle. These transmitters can beam fiber internet to multifamily housing and offices across Seattle, even those outside the twelve demonstration neighborhoods, as long as they are in a line of sight. Internet service would be delivered to individual units within a building through existing wiring. This wireless coverage can provide network and Internet services to customers that do not have immediate access to fiber in the city.
3)Next generation mobile wireless internet: Gigabit Seattle will provide next generation wireless cloud services in its 12 neighborhoods to provide customers with mobile access.
The fiber network, the gigabit dedicated wireless connections, and wireless cloud services neighborhoods will together provide broadband wired and wireless network and Internet services, giving Seattle customers new choices.
“Seattle and its spirit of entrepreneurship, community advancement, innovation and invention make it the ideal City for this exciting initiative,” said Mark Ansboury, president of Gigabit Squared. “Bringing the City of Seattle, the University of Washington, individual neighborhoods, as well as Gigabit Squared and our investors together, we’re able to do what none of us could do individually – build a platform for economic development and business creation.”
This is the first demonstration project of Gigabit Squared’s Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program (GNGP), which will bring other projects like this to promote gigabit network innovation in six selected university communities across the country. The $200 million broadband program was developed in partnership with The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project (Gig.U).
“This exciting public-private partnership serves as an example to communities all over the world of how universities and their local stakeholders can collaborate to drive economic opportunities by putting private investment to work alongside public capital,” said Blair Levin, Executive Director of Gig.U. “We’re thrilled to see our Gig.U member, University of Washington, at the center of this innovative initiative to help Seattle communities benefit from the advanced applications and services accelerating the meaningful use of this gigabit speed network. Congratulations to all involved in the Seattle Broadband Initiative in developing this world-class fiber network that will support not only today’s needs, but foster innovation and serve the research and community development needs of tomorrow.”
Tireless Efforts To Bring Gigagbit Broadband to the Emerald City
On Thursday, December 13th, we were able to announce the second participant in our Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program. Since in announced the program in May alongside Gig.U, Gigabit Squared has announced Chicago and now Seattle will be part of this groundbreaking 21st century broadband project.
Seattle’s sponsor in this endeavor was the University of Washington. Seattle is lucky to have such a strong community partner and advocate.
And so we gathered at the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering at UW, where Ed Lazowska, Bill and Melinda Gates Professor & Chair, kicked off the event of Computer Science talking about the “landmark day” for Seattle.
Next up, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn talked a bit about the nuts and bolts of what this means to Seattle ans his vision. I want to commend Mayor McGinn and his fine staff for their foresight. They will surely show the world how to innovate! Seattle’s businesses and citizens have them to thank for the tools we plan to bring to bear to help compete in today’s global digital economy.
The Executive Director of Gig.U and our friend Blair Levin did us the honor of attending as well. It was Blair’s vision not only for this program, but in crafting the National Broadband Plan that made this a momentous occasion for us all. He congratulated Seattle on behalf of all of Gig.U member institutions, world-class research universities.
And then came my turn… my least favorite part of the event as I so enjoyed hearing from everyone else. Nonetheless, it was my task to try and do what I always do, explain the “so what” of gigabit broadband. We may all know that faster is better, promotes innovation… but what could that look like?
What we’re doing in Seattle starts with the building of demonstration fiber project in 12 Seattle neighborhoods. What could the availability of Gigabit Internet mean for Seattle?
It means better education as we break down traditional classroom walls with digital learning tools.
It means higher quality healthcare as we will be able to provide not only telemedicine to the homes of citizens, but allow Seattle’s physicians to digitally consult with specialists all over the world.
This means making health and wellness services available anywhere, aging in place possible and improving recovery times at home instead of in the hospital. Creating a healthier Seattle.
It means opportunities to improve the City’s public safety services as our first responders can “serve and protect” more effectively armed with digital tools and information.
And it means that businesses, the largest in the City, as well as home based businesses will have the Internet speeds they need to collaborate, innovate, and create the products and services of tomorrow – right here in Seattle.
We are looking forward to taking this journey with the mayor’s office, Seattle’s citizens, organizations, and businesses as we all work together to make the Emerald city a “city of Tomorrow.” Keep coming back to www.gigabitseattle.com for updates, and if you are interested in service, make sure you signup at www.gigabitseattle.com/signup.
Today Gigabit Seattle announced, in conjunction with Mayor Mike McGinn’s “State of the City Address,” that two more neighborhoods would be added to Gigabit Seattle’s initial roll out plan.
The additions of Central Ballard and West Seattle brings the number of demonstration neighborhoods to 14 and is a testament to our model of building where citizen demand is highest as both communities expressed significant interest on Gigabit Seattle’s signup page.
Our long term goal is to bring fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) and fiber-to-the-business (FTTB) to all of Seattle, but as for now, the immediate future, network builds are entirely up to citizen demand, which has been significant as we will provide gigabit speed Internet that is 1000 times faster than the typical high-speed connection.
Have Questions About Your Neighborhood and Coverage?
Start by taking a look at our coverage map and keep in mind a few things…
While we have taken the time to incorporate a rather sophisticated map, the boundaries are not hard and fast rules, only guidelines. We will extend beyond them based on demand. If you are registered in our system, we will take you into account.
We’re listening to citizens and neighborhoods that want the service as soon as possible, so please, no matter where you live, if you are interested, make sure you and your neighbors signup so that we can reach you.
In his State of the City Address this afternoon, Mayor Mike McGinn provided Seattle’s City Council with an update on how his office has been “working hard to build the next generation of our Internet infrastructure and provide people with better choices.”
Since the December announcement, some early milestones Gigabit Seattle has achieved include:
3,300 citizens have signed up for sign up for services
More than 135 businesses have expressed interest in signing up
Numerous apartment complexes/multi-dwelling units are asking for service
Many of Seattle’s citizens have asked about the network’s capabilities to meet the needs of planned home-based businesses.
Mayor McGinn told the story of meeting with the mayor of Kansas City, who is receiving their own gigabit Internet service thanks to Google. Kansas City has kids and fledgling entrepreneurs flocking to Kansas City because of gigabit Internet. “I think Seattle can get those kids here, don’t you?”
We agree Mr. Mayor – and are excited to see the possibilities gigabit speed Internet service will bring Seattle over the coming years.
Last week we had the opportunity to speak with a local community group at the Beacon Hill Public Library. The North Beacon Hill Council invited Gigabit Squared to tell the residents about the new Gigabit Seattle network – and the exciting, affordable broadband connectivity that’s on the way. For many “legacy” reasons, the infrastructure in this Seattle neighborhood is worse than most, will service availability currently at less than one meg.
As Gigabit Seattle is still in the engineering phase, the specific boundaries for Beacon Hill coverage have not been set – but with more than 75 citizens in the room, it was clear that the demand and anticipation for service is high. Before the meeting, Beacon Hill was in the top third of demand. Word travels fast and demand in this area is only climbing. Whether you are in Beacon Hill or any of the other demonstration neighborhoods, make sure you signup today to help ensure you receive gigabit-speed Internet.
It has been almost two decades since @Home Network offered perhaps the first broadband plan in the country. It was right after the 1996 Telecommunications Act allowed cable companies to get into the business. Milo Medin, one of @Home’s co-founders, still recalls the price of the pioneering service, offered to residents of Fremont, Calif.: $34.95 a month — $51.85 in today’s money — for a maximum speed of 10 megabits per second. The memory inspires not a little frustration about the Internet’s progress since then: 17 years after @Home plugged in its first customer, the residents of Kansas City pay Time Warner, their local cable company, $46.90 for a 3 Mbps connection and $55.40 for a top speed of 15 Mbps.
“At that time the United States was a leader in broadband,” Mr. Medin recalled. Today, he lamented, “I don’t see anybody arguing that the U.S. is anything but mediocre.”
These days, Mr. Medin leads Google’s effort to deploy superspeedy 1 gigabit-per-second networks — 100 times faster than the 10 Mbps plans @Home introduced long ago — in several cities around the country, starting in Kansas City last fall.
Most of the nation’s innovation today relies on a broadband connection. Yet broadband seems to be the one area of the information economy that has not followed Moore’s law, named after the proposition by Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore that the power of digital devices would roughly double every couple of years, radically expanding their capability and driving down their cost.
“Internet access is constraining what people can do,” Mr. Medin said. “This puts American companies at a disadvantage. It puts Google in a place where we can’t innovate as well as we could.”
President Obama has made much of this deficit. In 2010 his administration introduced a National Broadband Plan that promised a path of rapid deployment of high-speed networks, offering 100 million households affordable access to connections of 100 Mbps or more.
“We will not succeed by standing still, or even moving at our current pace,” Julius Genachowski, Mr. Obama’s first chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, told Congress at the time. Yet most Americans are still stuck in the Internet slow lane, far from the frontier of our possibilities. And the main roadblock remains much the same as it has been for years: a lack of competition.
Last week, President Obama nominated Tom Wheeler, a veteran lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, to succeed Mr. Genachowski. He has his job cut out for him: achieving fast universal broadband requires figuring out how to shake up the oligopolies that run the nation’s high-speed Internet.
There has been progress lately. The F.C.C. points out that more fiber-optic cable has been laid in the United States than in Europe in the last two years. According to Akamai, the nation’s average broadband download speed is about 7.4 Mbps per second, about twice as fast as it was two years ago. This puts the nation in eighth place in the world, up from 22nd in 2009.
Still, speeds in the United States remain behind those in the world’s most connected countries, like South Korea, Japan and Switzerland. Equally importantly, American broadband, at an average price of $6.14 per Mbps, is more expensive than in most other developed nations.
This has little to do with the actual cost of moving bits. The price of transporting data wholesale across the Internet has fallen to about $1.57 per Mbps, down from $1,200 when Mr. Medin was helping start @Home. And high prices discourage Americans from opting for higher speeds. Though 10 Mbps broadband is available in 90 percent of homes around the country, and four out of five homes have access to 100 Mbps service, last year only 28 percent of homes that had access to broadband at a speed above 6 Mbps actually bought it.
What’s most worrying is that the handful of companies offering high-speed broadband to American consumers may have little incentive to expand their networks, increase their speeds and lower their prices.
According to the F.C.C.’s latest calculation, under one-third of American homes are in areas where at least two wireline companies offer broadband speeds of 10 Mbps or higher. Even including the spottier service offered by wireless providers, which tends to come with strict data caps limiting use, the share is less than half.
That means that in most American neighborhoods, consumers are stuck with a broadband monopoly. And monopolies don’t strive to offer the best, cheapest service. Rather, they use speed as a tool to discriminate by price — coaxing consumers who are willing to pay for high-speed broadband into more costly and profitable tiers.
Blair Levin, who headed the F.C.C.’s broadband initiative until three years ago and is now at the Aspen Institute, traces the roots of broadband’s limits to telephone companies’ decision, back in the 1990s, not to match cable’s costly investments in fiber, trusting that their DSL service would be an adequate competitor.
But DSL couldn’t follow cable past 3 Mbps. Verizon did eventually get on the ball — investing in its FiOS fiber network, which is expected to reach 17 million homes when it is completed. But that’s the exception.
“Given cable’s lead and its ability to counterstrike if the telcos upgrade, the telcos don’t have a winning strategy that involves a better network,” Mr. Levin said, suggesting that the industries will focus on drawing profit from existing networks rather than investing much in expanding them. “Both cable and the telcos are better off with a harvest strategy, and both sides would lose if one starts an upgrade cycle.”
The preferred strategy seems to involve more cooperation than competition. In 2011, Verizon tried to cobble together agreements with the nation’s major cable firms to jointly market each others’ services — offering itself as the wireless complement to cable’s wireline plans. It was foiled only because the Justice Department slapped the deals down as anticompetitive.
Mr. Genachowski contends that broadband deployment is on the right track. He points to the growing number of high-speed broadband deployments like Google Fiber and municipal projects around the country, as well as to AT&T’s announcement that it will expand the footprint of its U-verse network — the number of homes to which service is available — to 33 million. This uses fiber part of the way and, AT&T claims, can attain up to 75 Mbps.
It probably will take an outsider like Google to transform the industry. Its assertion that it can turn a profit selling 1 Gbps service for $70 ($120 with a TV plan) offers an entirely new horizon for broadband development. It has plans under way to take the service to Austin, Tex., and Provo, Utah. And it is spurring a domino chain of investments.
“As someone who is stuck with 1 Mbps broadband at one house due to where it is located, it’s a huge inhibitor,” said Brad Feld, a longtime investor in digital start-ups from Boulder, Colo., who bought a residence in Kansas City’s first plugged-in neighborhood to house inspired entrepreneurs free. “At this point I have no idea what the breakthrough applications will be, but I look forward to experimenting with some stuff and figuring it out.” Several cities, including Chattanooga, Tenn., and Seattle, are starting their own gigabit plans, potentially forcing the dominant cable and phone companies to respond. Shortly after Google’s fiber started operating in Kansas City, Time Warner increased speeds across the city, offering its first 100 Mbps service in the country. After Google said last month it would build a 1 Gbps network in Austin, AT&T said it would build one too.
Supporting these bills, of course, are the nation’s cable and telephone companies.
Correction: May 9, 2013
Because of an editing error, the Economic Scene column on Wednesday, about the United States’ lag in high-speed broadband, misstated the number of homes served by AT&T, which is expanding its U-verse high-speed network. It plans to make the network available to 33 million homes, an increase of 8.5 million; it does not currently serve 100 million homes.
I recently went to see Iron Man 3, and while I’ll leave the reviews to the critics, this geek found it quite cool to see an old friend featured in a scene. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) needed to access a server and was disappointed to find that he couldn’t due to the test he ran on popular Internet tool Speedtest.Net – showing a pretty standard 10 Meg signal. One thing leads to another, and Tony finds an ally to increase the power of the Internet signal (bandwidth) so he could continue to save the world.
So whether you need to save the world, or download a movie on iTunes, Gigabit Seattle is coming to help make sure that your Internet connection will expand (not limit) your world of possibilities.
But what exactly is the right amount of bandwidth/speed needed in 2013? Keep in mind, if you have a pretty common 15-10 Meg connection, this is a pie you must share with everyone else on your network. Video Skype? That’s a couple Meg slice. Netflix? That could be the entire pie!
In 2013, most households are finding that they are using up all of their Internet bandwidth during peak (more people at home) time – times when mom is doing something requiring 8 Megs, brother is doing something needing 4 Megs, and you want to do something that only needs a Meg.
It is our goal to bring your home the kind of speed and capacity that will prevent these very instances that prevent the type of access that will let you do everything you want and need to do online.
With Gigabit Seattle featuring fiber optic cables and wireless to deliver robust (Gigabit speed) Internet service, let’s take a step back and look at where we’ve been to better understand and appreciate where we’re going.
Dial up. Whether you lived through dial up service or just heard awful rumors about it – the Internet was first delivered to homes over telephone lines with speeds of 24, 58, or 144K (there are 1000K in one Meg). Needless to say, while users couldn’t imagine the applications that were coming, we did realize that the Internet at this speed was slow for loading a simple newspaper article.
With the turn of the century came broadband in the home as an increasingly more viable (and affordable) option. With this sea change in technology adoption, came application and solution development that only broadband could support. Without broadband connections delivered to the home by DSL and then cable, there would be no iTunes, Netflix, or countless other solutions, products, and industries.
DSL, Cable, and Occasionally Satellite
In the 2000′s, whether you get your service through DSL, your cable provider, or maybe even via satellite, there are limitations to each technology. They are each “always on” Internet solutions – you don’t need to dial in, etc. Beyond the price, service levels, or anything else, each technology has its pros and cons.
• Your connectivity to your residence is always the same speed, it will not fluctuate
• Symmetrical connectivity – download and upload speeds are the same
• Copper wiring, the phone company’s infrastructure, can limit speed availability significantly (typically to 3 Megs or so)
• Cable infrastructure capable of supporting more robust connectivity (30 Megs)
• Connectivity can vary as more people within a neighborhood are online
• Asymmetrical connectivity (download speed capabilities are greater than upload speed)
• Reaches (remote) homes that cable and DSL don’t already
• Hard to ignore, satellite connectivity is extremely expensive
• Limited speed availability (1-2 Megs)