New Chief Technology Officer looks ahead to high-speed internet

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

Seattle’s new chief technology officer sat down with KIRO 7 Friday to explain how a policy change could bring competition to the city’s high-speed Internet market.

SEATTLE - Seattle’s new chief technology officer sat down with KIRO 7 Friday to explain how a policy change could bring competition to the city’s high-speed Internet market.

In September, the City Council will consider changing what’s called the Seattle Department of Transportation “director’s rule,” so that telecommunications companies can more easily install boxes in public right-of-ways.

On Tuesday, CenturyLink announced that would enable them to bring gigabit Internet, equivalent to 1000 Mbps, to four neighborhoods in 2015: West Seattle, Ballard, Central District and Beacon Hill.

“I’ve heard people say refrigerator boxes. Really what we’re talking about are boxes that are 24 to 28 inches tall and a foot, foot-and-a-half wide,” Mattmiller said.

Mattmiller said the city hopes to have a consistent framework to put those boxes in neighborhoods, while still giving people a way to object to their locations.

CenturyLink will use these boxes as a way of connecting fiber optic cable to each home.

“That technology can be exponentially faster than what current providers can give consumers in the city over existing wires,” he said.

Currently, Comcast, CondoInternet and Wave Broadband are also laying fiber optic cable throughout the city.

Wave spokesperson Harold Zeitz said they are building an end-to-end, fiber-to-the-home network, which does not require large equipment boxes in the right of way.

Wave-owned CondoInternet has been providing gigabit service in select neighborhoods since 2008. They are mainly serving multi-dwelling units and businesses.

“Some of the 15 neighborhoods served include Ballard, Belltown, South Lake Union, Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, First Hill, Pioneer Square, U District and Bellevue.  The service is now available in approximately 15,000 homes and another 10,000 or so are in the build pipeline,” Zeitz said.

Comcast spokesperson Steve Kipp said, “It is important to note that Comcast has been offering multi-gig (up to 10 Bbps) services for business customers in Seattle for years. On the residential side, we currently offer speeds up to 105 Mbps to our entire service area not just selected neighborhoods and have increased our speeds 13 times in the past 12 years. As demand for faster speeds grows, we will continue to increase speeds as the market matures.”

Kipp said a change to the SDOT director’s rule would not significantly change the game for Comcast, since its equipment is different.

Robert Kangas, the chair of a community group called Upping Technology for Underserved Neighbors, said allowing CenturyLink to provide gigabit Internet will improve competition for consumers.

“As we’ve seen in Kansas City where Google Fiber rolled out, Comcast started upping their speeds as well. So this is going to force everyone to up their game,” Kangas said.

Mattmiller said he also welcomes additional providers who want to serve Seattle residents.

“We need to make sure broadband does not become a barrier. And that there are competitive and affordable broadband options,” he said.