A Perspective from the Chair: Short Version
Link to complete version:
This writing addresses the issue as to whether Seattle should build and own a broadband system, also referred to as a “fiber network” for its residents and businesses. This is a condensed version. While Mayor Nickels and previous Councilmembers have supported the concept and invested in determining the feasibility of building a fiber network, Mayor McGinn has announced that Seattle should build a citywide fiber network. Mayor McGinn plans to prepare an application for federal grants and is developing a plan for local financing.
The issue: Should Seattle build a fiber network for all of its residents and businesses?
Analysis: To sustain a successful business and learning environment, we must make sure affordable, next-generation broadband access is available to all residents and businesses. Our neighbors in other smaller cities and regions are investing in stronger technology systems to attract people and businesses. Maintaining the status quo regarding Internet speed and capacity could mean Seattle is left behind. Moreover, there are parts of Seattle that receive poorer broadband access than others.
Seattle is a technology and business leader. To continue that leadership and remain a renowned hub of innovation, Seattle should have a network that provides residents with download speeds of 20 Mbps to 100 Mbps and upload speeds of 10 Mbps to 50 Mbps. The network infrastructure should be capable of offering symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 Mbps by 2020. This type of high-speed Internet would advance our access to medical monitoring tools, distant learning tools, and running a small business from your home.
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A Perspective from the Chair: Complete Version
Link to condensed version:
One of my goals is to formulate the best environment for people and businesses to thrive in this region (1). To sustain a successful business and learning environment, we must make sure affordable, next-generation broadband access is available to all residents and businesses of all sizes. Our neighbors in other smaller cities and regions have capitalized on this proposition and are investing in stronger technology systems to attract people and businesses. Maintaining the status quo regarding Internet speed and capacity could mean being left behind. To suggest that Seattle has neglected a plan to deploy high speed fiber is somewhat naïve and inaccurate. There are clearly reasons why no major city has deployed a municipally owned fiber system and why Clarksville, Tennessee; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Monticello, Minnesota are cited as the examples of cities that have deployed it. There is a reason why San Francisco, Portland and St. Paul have not launched a city-owned system. Irrespective of these facts, I agree that an opportunity for national leadership on this issue presents itself.
I have played major roles in new product and service deployment so this is the type of opportunity that I embrace. But here, there is no room for impetuousness because our citizens deserve better; this is not a lab experiment or classroom exercise. We can cite numerous examples of failed or troubled municipally-owned fiber networks.
Let me share some details about the policy issues related to providing public high-speed broadband access for all residents in Seattle. While past Councilmembers have concerned themselves with this issue, I am not sure whether they had the data that we now have, or the wherewithal to drill deep into what this may now mean or cost; or in contrast, what it may mean or cost not to have full broadband access.
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Reserve fund established to protect rates
City Light sells its surplus power to receive wholesale revenue and uses this wholesale revenue to keep your rates low. Last year City Light encountered a $70 million wholesale revenue shortfall caused by low natural gas prices. This year the Utility is facing a similar shortfall caused by the 8th lowest snow pack in the last 50 years. My goal is to protect you, as ratepayers, from the volatility of wholesale revenue fluctuations, and still keep your rates as one of the lowest in the nation. We have been successful. The Full Council took the recommendation of the Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee and voted unanimously to create a $100 million Rate Stabilization Account (RSA) for City Light. This followed six weeks of discussion, analysis and testimony. Following is a chronology of RSA discussions and the press release that announces and describes the RSA:
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On March 22, 2010, the Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Community Roundtable members agreed to send an advocacy letter to Governor Chris Gregoire expressing strong support for E2SHB 3026 which deals with the civil rights of students in public schools. I volunteered to draft the letter, which was eventually signed by Roundtable members, making it clear that education is a key to resolving race and social inequities. Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Community Roundtable includes institutions and organizations across the region, all committed to racial and social justice, and includes community based organizations, philanthropy, education and other public entities. Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights leads and staffs the Community Roundtable. On November 19, 2009, I introduced the Community Roundtable legislation whose mission and purpose was supported by the Council by a vote of 9-0 and signed into law by the Mayor. We want all of our kids to have the tools, support, commitment and environment to succeed. I believe we are all accountable: parents, kids, our community and our public school system. This legislation is intended to support this accountability.
What does that mean to you?
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Media Advisory issued on Friday, 3/12/2010:
Conference will bring together leaders from this region to discuss opportunities for governments and organizations to collaborate on policies and technologies that will make government more efficient and open.
Friday, March 26, 2010 (7:30 AM – 5:30 PM)
Saturday, March 27, 2010 (8:00 AM – 4:30 PM)
Seattle – The City of Seattle will host the first regional open government conference to discuss best practices for new technologies that relate to opening up City data, new public engagement tools to enhance communication with the government, and improving customer service access and response.
Government 2.0 tools are progressing at the city, state, and federal level. These tools are transforming the way citizens communicate with the government and are empowering governments to be more efficient.
The two-day conference will bring together community activists, regional technology companies, regional policy makers, and local and state agency representatives. Through this conference, regional leaders can share and collaborate on Government 2.0 tools and establish regional partnerships on technology and transparency policies. Open Gov West is sponsored by the Seattle City Council and Mayor McGinn’s office.
Seattle City Council Pressed City Light to Fix Neighborhood Streetlight Outage Backlogs
Seattle City Light’s redesigned programs have already improved streetlight service levels for all Seattle utility customers. This has been priority for my Committee and the Council. In December 2009, we redesigned the Streetlight Maintenance Outage Repair Program and discontinued spot re-lamping as the primary method for handling routine outages. In place of a spot re-lamping program, a planned city-wide routine maintenance program was implemented and is now more than 50 percent complete. This reduces the labor costs the Utility has to pay.
Seattle City Light currently powers and maintains nearly 84,000 Seattle streetlights within its service area of 131.3 square miles. After my Energy and Technology Committee focused its work on streetlighting in 2008, City Light installed 42,000 new lamps, covering our service territory south of Denny Way. Additionally, City Light will begin its next phase and will stretch from Denny Way north to 65th Street.
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