In today’s economy, the internet is necessary to apply for a job, study for school, operate a small business, or find housing. Yet 15% of Seattle residents lack access to internet in their home. These residents are disproportionately low-income, people of color, immigrants and refugees. Adding insult to injury, signing up for the internet often comes with mandatory bundles, frequent outages, abysmal customer service, and anti-consumer practices like data caps.
Internet access is an equity and social justice issue. Last year’s $100 million lawsuit against Comcast only strengthens the case for a municipal alternative to provide internet access for all. It’s time to treat broadband as a utility accessible to all, rather than a privilege afforded to the few.
A public internet utility would benefit more than just those currently without internet. Comcast and Centurylink have repeatedly failed to invest in our communities. South end neighborhoods, including my own in Hillman city, consistently have speeds lower than the FCC’s broadband benchmark.
The solution is clear. Seattle can provide gigabit internet to every neighborhood for one third the price of the private sector. Yet two years ago, a majority of City Council members rejected a pilot project to bring municipal broadband to Beacon Hill. It’s time to make municipal broadband a reality in Seattle; we can’t wait any longer.