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Originally published September 15, 2014 at 5:33 PM | Page modified September 16, 2014 at 9:14 AM

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Editorial: Full speed ahead for high-speed Internet in Seattle

A plan that would allow CenturyLink and potentially other providers to compete for high-speed Internet service in Seattle deserves support from the full city council.


Seattle Times Editorial

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IN a tech town like Seattle, slow Internet service should be as unthinkable as weak, tepid coffee. Which is why a rule change making its way through the City Council deserves public support, if not celebration — it would open up the sort of competition that could bring lightning-fast service to neighborhoods citywide.

Just one problem, if it really can be called that. You’ll see communications cabinets on curbside planting strips. This might not sit well with Seattle residents who have come to think of those strips as their own, but it could mean better service in neighborhoods plagued by slow service.

The proposal before the council, backed by Councilmember Bruce Harrell and Mayor Ed Murray, makes it easier for telecommunications providers to place service boxes in public rights of way. No permission from adjacent property owners would be needed when boxes are less than three feet tall and less than 18 cubic feet.

Seattle currently imposes a unique and cumbersome permission requirement, requiring signatures from the nearest private-property owner as well as from 60 percent of property owners within 100 feet. Even if land owners are willing, it isn’t always easy tracking them down. CenturyLink says the rule has hampered its efforts to roll out gigabit-speed Internet service, far faster than phone company digital subscriber line (DSL) service and about 10 times beyond the highest speeds now advertised by cable-TV companies. Unlike cable service, CenturyLink’s technology requires a cabinet for every 300 to 400 customers.

Most important, CenturyLink says it would go first to the neighborhoods that have complained the most about poky speeds offered by cable-TV providers — Beacon Hill and the Central District — as well as Ballard and West Seattle. The new rules address graffiti and other maintenance concerns for the boxes.

As efforts to develop publicly owned networks have failed, competition between multiple providers seems the best way to improve service. Service boxes are really no different from old-fashioned utility poles. If they are the price of cutting-edge service, then full speed ahead.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



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