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Seattle to launch ultra high-speed broadband network for homes, businesses

A map shows the areas where the city of Seattle, broadband developer Gigabit Squared and the University of Washington will launch a new ultra-high-speed broadband pilot project. (Gigabit Squared image)

The internet is about to get a lot faster and beefier in Seattle after Mayor Mike McGinn announced Thursday an agreement for a new ultra high-speed fiber network across the city.

The city has signed an agreement with broadband developer Gigabit Squared and the University of Washington to develop and operate the network, which leverages the city’s unused fiber network capacity.

The network, called Gigabit Seattle, will begin with a demonstration project in 12 Seattle neighborhoods, then expand citywide.

“This is a very promising proposal that can help bring 21st century infrastructure to Seattle,” McGinn says. “I’ve heard from residents and businesses that Seattle needs better broadband service, and this agreement lays the groundwork for building that network.”

The network includes three components: fiber connections directly to homes and businesses in the 12 demonstration neighborhood, gigabit broadband wireless connections to multifamily housing and offices across Seattle, and next generation mobile wireless internet.

University of Washington President Michael Young says the new network will help make Seattle the most wired and connected city in the nation and help spur innovation and the economy in the coming decades.

“It’s definitely a game-changer, and we are delighted to be one of the driving forces in making this a reality,” Young says.

Most appealing for McGinn is the deal calls for Gigabit Squared to raise the money needed to design and build out the network.

“There is no city money going into this project. This is, as we’ve said, the most promising approach we’ve received,” McGinn says. “If Gigabit can roll out a product that has acceptance in the community and it works, we’re hopeful we can expand this to more neighborhoods.”

The initial neighborhoods getting the gigabit network include Area 1: the University of Washington’s West Campus District, Area 2: South Lake Union, Area 3: First Hill/Capitol Hill/Central Area, Area 4: the University of Washington’s Metropolitan Tract in downtown Seattle, Area 5: the University of Washington’s Family Housing at Sand Point, Area 6: Northgate, Area 7: Volunteer Park Area, Area 8: Beacon Hill and SODO Light Rail Station and Areas 9-12: Mount Baker, Columbia City, Othello, and Rainier Beach.

There’s no word on cost of the service or when it will roll out. Gigabit president Mark Ansbour says the pricing will be similar to other competing services like Comcast and CenturyLink.

“As a result of what the city has been able to do, we will be able to drive costs down significantly,” he says.

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