Municipal Broadband

THE PEOPLES PARTY POSITION ON MUNICIPAL BROADBAND

Robust access to the internet is a requirement in today’s society. Without internet access, students are unable to complete their homework, job-seekers are unable to apply for work, and small businesses and local artists aren’t able to sell their wares.

It’s unimaginable that in a global city like ours, one built on aviation and internet-enabled technology, residents must still negotiate with the private sector to connect to the world around us. This leaves nearly 15% of Seattle residents without access to the internet.  That’s 93,000 people, disproportionately made up of those of us who are cash-poor, people of color, and immigrants — the very people whose economic opportunity is determined by a lack of access to the internet. The solution is simple: Seattle needs to build out a public internet utility dedicated to the public good.

Seattle can join the growing list of nearly 100 cities across the nation that have revolutionized the way residents connect to the web. A city-owned public internet utility — just like our city-owned electric, water, and garbage utilities — can provide high-quality internet for a third of the price of the private sector, and will be made accountable to residents, not shareholders.

PROVIDING HIGHER QUALITY CONNECTIONS AT LOWER COSTS

Position: In 2015, Seattle commissioned a study that gave us a roadmap to the future. A publicly-owned internet utility could offer high quality, gigabit-speed internet connections to every household in the city for $45 a month. Not only is this faster than the internet offered to most households today, it’s a third of the price charged by the private sector. The last administration saw this study and declared municipal broadband too costly an investment, even though the price tag was less than half the cost of Seattle’s 2015 Move Seattle Levy. We need a mayor who will prioritize the people of this city above internet service providers, and Seattleites who have benefited from our internet-enabled tech boom must help invest in an infrastructure that benefits all of us.

Action Agenda: Nikkita and the People’s Party are committed to moving Seattle past studies and into action. As elected mayor, we will work with, rather than against, municipal broadband advocates on the city council to design a shovel-ready plan that connects the entire city to a new, robust public internet utility. Working with the Seattle City Budget Office and the Seattle Office of Intergovernmental Relations, we will seek out and design progressive revenue streams that ask the wealthiest in our city to help fund the public utility.

PUBLIC CONTROL OF THE INTERNET

Position: The internet is a fundamentally democratizing medium, allowing all to have a voices and be amplified.  Unfortunately, private internet service providers like Comcast and Centurylink are not incentivized to guarantee internet freedom. Instead, in the pursuit of increasing quarterly profits, they undermine net neutrality, institute unnecessary data caps, and sell private browsing history. A democratically controlled public utility addresses those attacks on the public interest and puts the needs and safety of residents first.

Action Agenda: Nikkita and the People’s Party will instruct the Seattle Information Technology Department to design an internet users Bill of Rights. In it, it will guarantee all residents are able to browse the web freely, enshrine the principle of Network Neutrality, and create the policy and procedural framework necessary to defend the privacy of all our residents from foreign and domestic agencies and bad actors.

ELIMINATING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

Position: While all Seattle residents will benefit from the lower costs of a publicly-owned internet utility, some residents will still be unable to afford $45 a month. These same residents — often cash-poor families with children and people in search of work — are some of the households who would benefit the most from having access to the internet. Just as Seattle City Light offers low-income utility rates to qualifying households, Seattle’s new public internet utility can provide low-cost options for families and residents most in need.
All Seattle residents deserve equal access to the web, and Seattle’s reduced price connections can offer the same speeds, quality, and level of service of every other resident. Seattle City Light doesn’t send low-income users a lesser tier of electricity. A city-owned internet utility can do the same.

Action Agenda: Model a pricing structure for low-income utility bills similar to Seattle City Light, while also simplifying the application process to ensure all eligible families and residents have access. When possible, the City can reduce administrative barriers and even auto-enroll low-income households in reduced price programs to ensure families receive all the savings they are entitled to.

ENSURING ACCESS TO LOCAL JOBS

Position: The City of Seattle is a strong union employer and already provides a living-wage job to nearly 10,000 city employees. The creation of a new public utility is projected to generate another 250 well-paying jobs. In order to combat the ever-increasing level of income inequality in our city, we will open up access to these careers to qualified members of our community who would benefit the most.

Action Agenda: We will work with the city council to expand existing priority hire programs to ensure the new internet utility service is staffed with members of our community. Where needed, we will design apprenticeship programs to prioritize workers living in economically depressed areas and ensure that the city provides equal levels of opportunity for women and people of color.