Activists protest 'sluggish' internet speeds in Seattle

VIDEO: Slow internet speed protest

Seattle activists walked at a snail’s pace through downtown Seattle Wednesday afternoon to protest what they call sluggish speed and terrible internet service.

They walked from Comcast’s downtown office on Westlake Avenue to Seattle City Hall, where they thanked City Council members Kshama Sawant and Rob Johnson. Sawant and Johnson introduced a budget amendment this week that would put $300,000 toward creating a business plan for a municipal broadband pilot project.

“You will always get substandard, overly priced services. That is why municipal broadband makes sense,” Sawant said. She said having a public internet service would encourage private companies to provide better service too.

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Sawant added that the city already owns an extensive fiber network.

“We can build on the existing network and actually not only provide broadband, but transform Seattle City Light into a 21st century technology utility,” she said.

Comcast told KIRO 7 that it increased internet speed in Seattle four times over the last six years; it reportedly invested $1 billion in Washington to improve networks.

KIRO 7 found out from the Seattle Department of Information Technology that two years ago, fewer than 2 percent of households had access to gigabit internet, but now more than 60 percent of households do.

Still, protesters said some neighborhoods are left out, and many people are stuck with only one choice of provider.

Brett Hamil, a local comedian, writer, and municipal broadband advocate, organized the upcoming event.

"We believe that broadband access is a social-justice issue and that Comcast and CenturyLinks' monopolies are a barrier to quality, affordable Internet," he told Geekwire.

Devin Glaser wore a costume during the protest.

“I decided to go as Tier 3 customer support. Because we’ve all had nightmares,” Glaser said.

Glaser said his neighborhood, Capitol Hill, is supposed to be among the areas with better service, but his current plan is still inadequate.

“Even a PDF report takes three to four minutes. I can’t do Google Hangout, I can’t do video chat, and we’re spending $60 a month,” he said.

KIRO 7 News followed Seattle’s previous efforts to look at municipal internet. Last summer, the city studied the feasibility of building and running a fiber network. The estimated cost was hundreds of millions of dollars.

Officials determined it was too risky and expensive. Costumers would have been charged $75 a month.

Private companies may produce more competition in the near future, because the city of Seattle recently loosened regulations that would have restricted companies to build their network in designated areas. With the change in policy, companies can now extend their services to neighborhoods they previously did not serve.

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