A group of dedicated citizens and City employees have worked tirelessly on the issue of broadband access for Seattle since the early part of this decade. Members of the Seattle Broadband Initiative Task Force, the City's Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board (CTTAB), and the City's Department of Information Technology (DoIT), have studied the issue, written reports, issued Requests For Information, evaluated responses, and commissioned feasibility studies. It is fair to say that the experience has been a long hard slog. No private business ever stepped forward to build the necessary infrastructure. No public-private partnership ever got off the ground, even though Seattle offered substantial incentives. No political will existed to make it a priority as a community. At least not until Mike McGinn announced his mayoral campaign in early 2009.
There was no reason any of us had to believe that Mike McGinn would win the race for Seattle City Mayor at that time, but we were all excited to see the topic become part of the political discourse for the campaign season. As the race progressed and all but Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan were eliminated from the ballot through our "top two primary", many of us thought there might be a real possibility that the necessary political will to build a municipal fiber to the home (FTTH) network may reside in the Mayor's office come January 2010 -- that is, of course, if Mike McGinn won. Joe Mallahan famously didn't understand the issue even superficially. In a interview by the Seattle PI, Joe Mallahan responded to a question about community resistance to cell phone towers in Seattle neighborhoods with the following statement:
I can't imagine that being anywhere near the top priorities of my administration. It is interesting, as a technology guy, for me to hear Mike McGinn talking about building a municipal Wi-Fi network (McGinn has said he wants to build a city-wide fiber optic network). That to me is just not pragmatic. People in suits and ties sipping lattes having Wi-Fit [sic] access, I think we've got that covered. We've got to make sure there's Internet access for poor people, in public facilities, in libraries, keeping libraries open...Muni Wi-Fi is not the most important thing for economy, and I don't think Mike gets that.Source: Howie In Seattle Blog
It's frightening to think that somebody who is so full of contempt for people who literally run their business lives from Seattle cafes could win the campaign and end up setting any sort of agenda for our City Government. The political polls were followed with interest and the voting results were watched with baited breath. Then Mike McGinn won. Seattle would get a Mayor who understood the transformative social and economic benefits of a municipal Fiber To The Home network.