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City announces ‘ultra high-speed’ broadband demonstration project to include Beacon Hill

December 13th, 2012 at 5:52 pm | 12 Comments | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

This map shows the 12 neighborhoods in the planned Gigabit Seattle demonstration project, including part of North Beacon Hill. Click to see a larger copy of the map.

This map shows the 12 neighborhoods in the planned Gigabit Seattle demonstration project, including part of North Beacon Hill. Click to see a larger copy of the map.

The City of Seattle today announced an agreement with broadband developer Gigabit Squared that plans to use the city’s excess fiber-optic capacity to provide an “ultra high-speed” fiber-to-the-home/business broadband network starting in Fall 2013 with demonstration projects in 12 Seattle neighborhoods, including portions of North Beacon Hill and other Southeast Seattle neighborhoods. An additional part of the project is the development of dedicated broadband wireless connections to multifamily housing and offices, and “next generation” mobile wireless Internet.

The City, the University of Washington, and Gigabit Squared have signed a memorandum of understanding and a letter of intent that allows Gigabit Squared to begin raising the capital needed for the first phase of the project.

That’s the good news. The bad news is: only a small part of Beacon Hill is included in the demonstration project (see this map or this map), so this will only improve things for a limited number of residents. However, Gigabit Seattle asks that you sign up on their website to show your interest in having the service so they can determine where to expand next.

Here’s how the city described the plan today in a press release:

1. Fiber to the home and business: Gigabit Seattle plans to build out a fiber-to-the-home/fiber-to-the-business (FTTH/FTTB) network to more than 50,000 households and businesses in 12 demonstration neighborhoods, connected together with the excess capacity that Gigabit Seattle will lease from the City’s own fiber network. Gigabit Seattle’s technology intends to offer gigabit speeds that are up to 1,000 times faster than the typical high-speed connection.

The initial 12 neighborhoods 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.

2. Dedicated gigabit to multifamily housing and offices: To provide initial coverage beyond the 12 demonstration neighborhoods, Gigabit Seattle intends to build a dedicated gigabit broadband wireless umbrella to cover Seattle providing point-to-point radio access up to one gigabit per second. This will be achieved by placing fiber transmitters on top of 38 buildings across Seattle. These transmitters can beam fiber internet to multifamily housing and offices across Seattle, even those outside the twelve demonstration neighborhoods, as long as they are in a line of sight. Internet service would be delivered to individual units within a building through existing wiring. This wireless coverage can provide network and Internet services to customers that do not have immediate access to fiber in the city.

3. Next generation mobile wireless internet: Gigabit Seattle will provide next generation wireless cloud services in its 12 neighborhoods to provide customers with mobile access.

See more about today’s announcement at the Seattle Times, which points out that parts of the East Side already have fiber broadband, and residents of Ephrata in Grant County have “one of the world’s fastest broadband services” — for $45 per month. Some parts of Seattle already have access to this speed as well, including the South Lake Union neighborhood through CondoInternet, which charges $200 per month for their “up-to-gigabit-speed” service. Gigabit Seattle has yet to finalize the rates for their service.

According to the Gigabit Seattle website, “the more interest we have in your area, the higher priority your neighborhood will become.” They ask that all interested people sign up at their website to show interest in receiving this service to their neighborhoods.


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Open computer lab time next Thursday at Mercer MS

April 29th, 2011 at 8:00 am | No Comments | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

The YMCA of Greater Seattle will offer open computer lab time at Asa Mercer Middle School on the first Thursday of the next two months (May 5 and June 2) from 5:30-7 p.m. YMCA technology instructors will be there to answer technology and internet questions and help with online tasks. All community members are welcome to attend. Mercer Middle School is located at 1600 Columbian Way S.


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Connecting: Broadstripe contract at UTUC, Schrier on FCC plan

March 23rd, 2010 at 12:09 pm | 1 Comment | Posted by Jason

(Editor’s note, March 25: The meeting discussed in this post has been CANCELLED.)

A reminder about the UTUC broadband Community Forum coming up on Thursday where Broadstripe’s city-granted monopoly franchise agreement will be a major point of discussion.

Scheduled speakers include City of Seattle Chief Technology Officer Bill Schrier and Broadstripe’s recently appointed Northwest General Manager David Irons.

Your presence will help drive the City of Seattle and Broadstripe to improve the way the current franchise agreement is handled. Sponsored by Upgrade Technology for Underserved Neighbors, all are invited and especially neighbors living in the underserved areas: Central District, Beacon Hill, Leschi, parts of Capitol Hill. We will review the 2010 Work Plan to ensure internet and cable service delivery improves as promised.

Thursday, March 25th, 5:30-7pm at the Central Area Senior Center, 500 30th Ave South. Refreshments will be served courtesy of the Central Area Development Association.

UTUN brings together neighbors from multiple south Seattle neighborhoods to advocate for immediate improvement to substandard cable and internet services. For more information about the forum or to get email updates, contact Tracy Bier at 206-227-2369 or atbier@msn.com.

* * *

Speaking of City CTO Bill Schrier, his recent blog posting on the FCC’s broadband plan is good reading and answers these questions and more:

  • Is this plan really radical or different?
  • What does 100 megabit service really mean for consumers at home or small business?
  • What are the implications for large cities like Seattle?
  • Practically, why do we need a public safety wireless broadband network?

[T]he FCC’s plan is visionary. Certainly it was carefully crafted with many competing interests interests in mind. And it doesn’t really provide any good mechanism to encourage competition between private providers. Such competition would reduce costs to users. Nevertheless, if it is followed, will materially improve the economy, safety, and quality of life for the people of the United States.

Read it on Schrier’s blog.


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Connecting: City-run network, Broadstripe speeds, Google

March 9th, 2010 at 9:53 am | 3 Comments | Posted by Jason

CDNews introduces a proposed $450 million city-run broadband system that could be financed through municipal revenue bonds issued against future subscriptions with initial service starting in just 18 months, expanding city-wide in 3 to 4 years.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Seattle had decided that the city could step in and provide what private industry was failing at. In 1900, the privately owned Seattle Electric Company provided power to residences and businesses across the city. But at $.20 per kilowatt-hour, it was expensive – several times more expensive than today. In inflation-adjusted terms, those rates would make your typical $75 electric bill in 2010 skyrocket up to $4,000.

So in 1902 city voters decided to allow the city to issue bonds to start a municipal electric system, and today we have Seattle City Light, which provides some of the lowest electric rates across the nation.

* * *

Also via CDNews, Broadstripe General Manager David Irons says “you should be getting at least 10 megabits [per second] right now. If you’re not, give us a call” at 800-829-CABL.

* * *

City requests your input on Google Ultra-High Speed Broadband details ways in which you can help Seattle be included in Google’s gigabit fiber-to-the-home pilot programCapitol Hill Seattle


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Connecting: Learn from Lafayette, expand fiber, spur Broadstripe

March 1st, 2010 at 2:38 pm | No Comments | Posted by Jason

Fiber optic bundles. Photo by pasukaru76.

Glenn Fleishman continues to dig into internet access issues at Publicola with another excellent article on municipal fiber and lessons learned from Lafayette, Louisiana.

* * *

Reclaim the Media, the Northwest Media Action Grassroots Network, and the Hidmo Community Empowerment Project are cohosting a community meeting on fiber broadband on Wednesday, March 3rd, from 5:30 to 7:30pm at Garfield Community Center, 2323 East Cherry Street.

Speakers will include: Malkia Cyril from Oakland’s Center for Media Justice, Tony Perez from the City of Seattle Department of Information Technology, local business owner Andre Helmstetter, Scott Durham from Central District News and David Irons of Broadstripe.

More details at CDNews.

* * *

$84 million grant to expand Internet in Washington “The expansion will add 57 libraries, 22 government facilities, 38 medical centers, two tribal service centers and four community colleges.” — Seattle P-I

* * *

Upgrade Technology for Underserved Neighbors (UTUN), a Southeast and Central Seattle neighbor group, has formed to advance internet access in our part of the city. They’ve met often with the City of Seattle and Broadstripe to work out a plan to improving service to residents in Beacon Hill, Judkins Park, Leschi, and the Central District.

Expect an online survey coming soon and a Community Forum with Broadstripe and the City of Seattle representatives Thursday, March 25th at 5:30 at the Central Area Senior Center
(500 30th Ave S) where they will be presenting an update to neighbors about their latest improvements.

For more information and to keep up-to-date with UTUN activities, contact Tracy Bier via atbier@msn.com or 206-227-2369. Previously.


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Beacon Bits: Bees, bandwidth, and Buddhist temple fire

February 15th, 2010 at 3:20 pm | 5 Comments | Posted by Jason

Temple fire — The February 9th fire at the Buddhist temple on South Juneau Street near MLK resulted from a furnace malfunction and caused an estimated $75,000 in damage and displaced several people, but thankfully resulted in no injuries.

* * *

Slow video — Perhaps the most obvious sign that your broadband isn’t quite up-to-snuff is that streaming video stuh-stuh-stutters and re-buffers repeatedly. Sometimes this isn’t entirely an effect of the quality of the lines or the speed your provider is capable of providing to you; sometimes it’s the result of your ISP deciding that, rather than spend the money to improve its switching and delivery infrastructure, it will instead artificially limit how fast you’re allowed to receive high-bandwidth content like internet video. Google now provides a little insight into this situation with YouTube Video Speed History graphs, showing the average delivery speed for YouTube videos to your ISP (and, if you visit YouTube enough, your IP address) compared to the average speed for your city, state, country, and the world.
From BoingBoing via Joel Lee. Thanks Joel!

* * *

Local honey — Spotted on Craigslist:

…I keep bees. I have honey for sale. This is pure, raw, unfiltered honey. It has never been above bee hive temperature, it has never had anything added, and it has local Beacon Hill pollen in it. It is DELICIOUS! (If I do say so myself). I have two kinds: a lighter honey which is mostly maple and mild in flavor, and a dark fall honey which is complicated in flavor and almost spicy. If you plan to buy a bottle or two, I do have a sample jar of each so you can taste it before you buy it and decide which you like best. :) Comes in 8oz oval squeeze bottles. $6/bottle. Providing your phone number will make it faster to arrange pick up.

The only contact information provided is the Craigslist reply email.

* * *

Food health inspections — The Health Department inspected a number of north Beacon Hill establishments recently, visiting Amazon, the Amazon coffee shop, El Delicioso (inside ABC Market), La Bendicion, La Cabaña, Chinatown Cafe #12 (inside the Red Apple), and Golden Daisy. Special congratulations to La Cabaña and the Amazon coffee shop for a perfect zero-violation scores. Anyone know if the Amazon coffee shop is open to the public?

* * *

Attention on appealsPublicola points back here, covering the Hearing Examiner appeal strategy and the opposition to it.


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Help advance neighborhood internet access

February 9th, 2010 at 11:34 am | 7 Comments | Posted by Jason

Update: This becomes even more timely and relevant with Google’s announced gigabit fiber-to-the-home trial plans announced today. Some additional coverage at Ars Technica. Please visit Google’s Request for information site and nominate Beacon Hill, specifically, and southeast Seattle generally, for this project. Thanks to Yifan for pointing to this in the comments!

Do you have substandard internet service from Broadstripe and want to help steer the development of our internet infrastructure? Tracy Bier contacted us hoping to find some folks from Beacon Hill to join a coalition of neighbors from several south-and-central Seattle neighborhoods working to move our access options forward:

Neighbors from Capitol Hill, Central District and Leschi have formed a group to advocate for improved internet and cable service in areas bound by a many-year-old franchise agreement between the Broadstripe company and the City of Seattle.

To balance the geographic representation of our team of volunteers, we urgently seek a neighbor from the Beacon Hill area who experiences the negative effects of below standard service from Broadstripe. We are also seeking a volunteer with legal experience in the technology field or a person familiar with fiber optic technology.

We know you are busy, nobody needs another volunteer pursuit but you might get some satisfaction from working with us. We are moving quickly on this, especially with the new mayor in place.

If you are interested in lending a hand, contact Tracy via email at atbier@msn.com or telephone: 206-322-8613.


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Publicola interview with Broadstripe GM David Irons

December 7th, 2009 at 2:52 pm | 1 Comment | Posted by Jason

Continuing to dig into the issue of (the lack of decent) broadband in the Central District and Beacon Hill, Glenn Fleishman at Publicola sits down with former King County Executive candidate and new Broadstripe Pacific Northwest General Manager David Irons.

A few highlights:

Of the 23 nodes in Seattle, “We have made significant electronic improvement to resolve the issues in 18 of them,” with the rest proving more problematic and requiring new cable runs or other changes. Irons said the remaining five nodes will be improved between February and March 2010.

Irons explains, “Just on a routine basis, we had our technicians going out and arriving at someone’s home, okay, you have a problem there,” then checking it off and leaving. Now, a technician “is not allowed to leave the person’s home until the problem is resolved, or they have permission from their supervisor.”

Customer service hours have been extended from 7 pm Pacific on weekdays to 9 pm Pacific, and in January that will go to 10 pm Pacific. Weekend customer support has been replaced with full-on tech support, with staff that can handle both billing and technical questions. Engineers are now on call for major problems 24 hours a day, as well.

These sound like good changes, and I do have to say that our internet connection at home has been better than it was in September, but it’s still nothing to be bragging about.

Irons also states that Broadstripe has 8 open positions they’re looking to fill.

Broadstripe is expected to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2010.

There’s lots more interesting information in the full article at Publicola.


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Broadstripe cable TV & internet provider files for bankruptcy protection

February 3rd, 2009 at 8:56 am | 56 Comments | Posted by Jason

Broadstripe (formerly Millennium Digital Media), cable television, internet, and telephone provider for a large portion of Beacon Hill, the entire Central Area, and parts of Capitol Hill and Queen Anne (inside the dashed red lines), has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The City of Seattle Office of Cable Communications notes:

The local Broadstripe office confirmed the filing and will send us formal notification. We will meet with them as soon as is feasible. Broadstripe also confirmed its commitment to continue providing service to Seattle customers with no interruptions during the financial restructuring. We will monitor customer calls to the Cable Office to confirm that service does not suffer.

This action was apparently taken back at the beginning of January, according to the city website.

I wonder if this might light a fire under the development of a municipal cable or fiber deployment like Tacoma has with their Click! Network. A city task force concluded in 2005 that “in order to remain competitive, Seattle needs fiber-optic lines to the home.” As of last spring, the city was still looking for a partner to help build and run such a system.


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