Mayor closes the curtain on Gigabit Seattle’s political theater


Running with the bull.

Gigabit Seattle will quickly fade away in the new year, judging by the lost faith of its most prominent cheerleader, outgoing mayor Mike McGinn. In an interview with GeekWire, McGinn expressed the sort of caring doubt politicians use to distance themselves from, say, a blood relative who’s been busted for indecent familiarity with farm animals for the third time…

“We’re now a year into it and the question is, will it work or not?” McGinn said inside his office at City Hall. He acknowledged that he’s ”very concerned it’s not going to work.”

Elected four years ago on a platform that included broadband for all, McGinn was unable to gain traction for a municipally owned fiber-to-the-home system. Last December, with less than year to go before his reelection contest, he threw a Hail Mary press conference with the University of Washington and a crew of former apparatchiks who were long on talk but short on money and experience.

They promised a pay-as-you-go network, that would begin with 12 pilot neighborhoods and then build out to the rest of the city, at “no risk to the taxpayer”. As I wrote at the time, the short answer as to whether that’s credible is no. The long answer is hell no.

The Seattle mayoral campaign heated up over the summer and the evident emptiness of McGinn’s FTTH promise became an issue. The only fundraising success that Gigabit Seattle, or its parent company, Gigabit Squared, achieved was to motivate Comcast to give $12,000 to challenger and eventual winner, state senator Ed Murray.

Those involved might have sincerely believed they could pull it off. But looking back over the past year, there’s little to distinguish Gigabit Seattle from a cynical political stunt.