Tag Archives: broadband

UPTUN needs you to sign letter about needed broadband improvements

Photo by Gavin. St. Ours via Creative Commons/Flickr.
Upping Technology for Underserved Neighborhoods (UPTUN) needs your help by signing a letter requesting changes that would make it easier for new broadband investments to come to Beacon Hill (and other neighborhoods), improving the speed and reliability of broadband service available to Beacon Hill neighbors.

Here is an appeal from UPTUN’s Robert Kangas, asking neighbors to sign a letter to the Seattle Department of Transportation. To sign the letter, post here with your name (real name, please) and your affiliation — for example, “John Doe (Beacon Hill resident)” or “Jane Doe (Owner, Doe’s Beacon Hill Widgets).”

Hey all, UPTUN’s going to be sending a letter to SDOT to try to force some change to the Director’s Rule that’s effectively blocking new broadband equipment from rolling out in Beacon Hill and the other underserved areas of Seattle. Most of us are stuck with the choice of a cable provider or nothing for high-speed internet. Well, we’re all tired of it. It’s time to take action.

Here’s the letter we’re sending to SDOT / the City of Seattle:

We’re looking to get as many cosigners as possible before we stick copies of this in the mail on Saturday. Will you add your name to the list of supporters of this letter? The more supporters we get, the better the chances of a good, timely outcome. The time to act is now.

Will you put your name down? Will you get your fellow neighbors / nearby business owners to do so, as well? If you’re going to do so, please give me your name and what organization / business or part of the city you belong to. For example: Robert Kangas (UPTUN member) or Robert Kangas
(Beacon Hill resident).

Pilot project could bring better broadband to Beacon Hill

by Mira Latoszek

Slow and unreliable internet service is a problem for many Beacon Hillers even though we live minutes from downtown Seattle and the headquarters of companies like Amazon and Microsoft. According to UPTUN (Upping Technology for Underserved Neighbors – an advocacy group for reliable cable and high-speed Internet at an affordable cost), Seattle’s permitting process for installing new broadband cabinets is part of the problem.

The process is slower and more restrictive than that of other cities, causing hold-ups or cancellation of several broadband upgrade projects planned for 2012 and 2013. Robert Kangas, a Beacon Hill neighbor and member of UPTUN, released a presentation comparing Seattle’s process with that of other cities. It’s worth reading if you wonder why your house is still stuck with 1.5 Mbps DSL.

In February, Bruce Harrell sent a letter expressing support for a broadband pilot project on Beacon Hill to the North Beacon Hill Council. The project would allow CenturyLink to deploy two fiber-to-the-node sites and provide homes near the sites with 80-100 megabits/second broadband speed before the end of 2013. If successful, the approach could be followed in other parts of Beacon Hill and Seattle.

On Wednesday, June 5th at 2PM, the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee of the Seattle City Council will discuss the proposal. The discussion will take place in the City Council Chambers at Seattle City Hall. The Committee will discuss the issue in its next scheduled meeting on June 19th and vote on whether or not to support it. If the proposal is approved by the committee, it will then move forward for review and approval by the whole Council. The agenda for the meeting is available here.

In addition, there will be a presentation and discussion of the pilot project tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 4) at the North Beacon Hill Council meeting at 7 p.m. at the Beacon Hill Library. Representatives from CenturyLink will present the details of the pilot project and be available to answer questions. Details of the two areas for the pilot can be viewed in this document.

Much depends on the support of the community. A number of Beacon Hill residents will attend the meeting on Wednesday to testify in support of the pilot project, but more support is needed. Please show your support by attending the meeting if you are available or by sending an email to Bruce Harrell (bruce.harrell@seattle.gov) and other City Council members.

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

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.

UPTUN on why Beacon broadband needs improvement

At Tuesday night’s North Beacon Hill Council meeting, Robert Kangas  of UPTUN (Upping Technology for Underserved Neighbors) was there was there to discuss the current state of broadband on Beacon Hill. There was no projector, so he was unable to do the originally-planned presentation on the current situation and the reasons it is so hard to upgrade equipment on the Hill. 

Since then, Kangas has released the presentation online as a PDF. Even without the narration and discussion, it’s worth reading if you wonder why your house is still stuck with 1.5 Mbps DSL. Here it is.

According to UPTUN, Seattle’s permitting process for installing new broadband cabinets is slower and more restrictive than that of other cities.  Additionally, “in order to get a fiber cabinet approved, 60% of the households in a 300 foot radius of the site have to say yes. People who don’t speak up are counted as no votes. Contacting everyone is extremely difficult since lots of people will never respond.”

There is a meeting (see our earlier post) at El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Ave. S., at 6 p.m. on September 20 to discuss this issue.

Broadband improvement meeting at El Centro 9/20

Annoyed at slow Internet speeds here on Beacon Hill? Mark Thursday, September 20 at 6 p.m. on your calendar—CenturyLink is hosting a community meeting to discuss what needs to be done to have faster speed in the area.

According to representatives from UPTUN (Upping Technology for Underserved Neighbors) and from CenturyLink who spoke at last night’s North Beacon Hill Council meeting, there have been problems with Seattle’s permitting process for installing new broadband infrastructure, causing hold-ups or cancellation of several broadband upgrade projects that had been planned for 2012. (The Beacon Hill Blog posted about some of these potential projects in July.)

Those interested in finding out more are invited to the meeting on September 20 at El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Ave. S., Room 307 (top floor, north end of the building). The meeting will run from 6-8 p.m., and there will be cookies and coffee provided.

CenturyLink seeks neighbors to host broadband equipment

Property owners on some parts of Beacon Hill may be able to help improve broadband service for their neighbors by providing space for broadband equipment on their property.

The group Upping Technology for Underserved Neighbors (UPTUN) reports that CenturyLink is seeking neighbors in certain locations who would be willing to allow the company to place a broadband cabinet on their property, or in the public right-of-way next to their property. Each project on Beacon Hill would serve from 175-877 residence and business addresses in the area.

To qualify, you must be within 500 feet of the requested address (see the map below) if the neighborhood is served by overhead wiring, or 250 feet if the service is underground. If you think you can help, contact Jeff Lawrey at CenturyLink at 206-345-0333 or r.lawrey@centurylink.com to discuss the projects, including equipment, landscaping options, and any other questions.

View CenturyLink 2012 Beacon Hill and CD broadband projects in a larger map

Mayor follows up on town hall questions

Mayor McGinn at the Beacon Hill Town Hall at Jefferson Community Center on February 15. Photo courtesy City of Seattle.
Mayor Mike McGinn this week sent out a follow-up email addressing unanswered questions that were brought up at the February 15 town hall meeting at Jefferson Community Center. Topics addressed include broadband access, future use of the closed Neighborhood Service Center, a possible Alcohol Impact Area on North Beacon Hill, and the SeaTac flight paths overhead.

There were some questions raised that we weren’t able to address that night; here they are, along with our answers:

1. What power does the City have to regulate Broadstripe and other broadband providers? The City of Seattle regulates cable television service for Seattle residents, and we also own the physical conduits through which the cables that provide that service travel, but the Federal Communications Commission has restricted the ability of cities like ours to regulate internet service providers. Where we do have power is in our contract negotiations with these companies. Our next opportunity to renegotiate our cable contract with Broadstripe will be in 2017. They have little capacity for significant service improvements, as they are now in bankruptcy (although still complying with the contract). The last contract renewal led the Department of Information Technology to look into creating a city-wide fiber-optic network in the first place. We know that there’s a huge need for faster and more reliable Internet access across the city, and that’s why we’re working on a business plan for municipal broadband.

2. Can members of the community use the old Neighborhood Service Center site as a volunteer-run community information center? The different departments involved are still discussing how to use the space going forward, and no decisions have been made so far. In the meantime, Department of Neighborhoods staff are using the space on a drop-in basis, and community groups can also make use of other meeting rooms in the library.

3. What will it take to make Beacon Hill an Alcohol Impact Area? As Captain Nolan and I mentioned on the 15th, the designation of an Alcohol Impact Area is something that’s done by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. More information about the designation process can be found here; links to studies of the effectiveness of AIA’s are here; and information about the processes that the City went through specifically in 2004-2006 are available here.

4. Is there anything that the City can do about flight paths going into and out of SeaTac? The Federal Aviation Administration regulates flight paths; the City, County, and Port don’t have direct regulatory authority over the airspace around the airport, but the FAA has been receptive to community input in the past. The Magnolia Community Club, for example, had a recent success when the FAA decided not to lower the level at which aircraft would be allowed to fly over Seattle neighborhoods. There will be an opportunity for the public to comment on the FAA’s Next Gen initiative, which will include re-evaluating flight plans that affect SeaTac and Boeing Field. Please E-mail me directly with your comments and concerns regarding flight paths over Beacon Hill, and I’ll be sure that we pass them along to the FAA. For more information about the Magnolia Community Club’s efforts, please contact Robert Bismuth at AirportNorth@gmail.com or 206-941-1923.

I hope the information in this E-mail is helpful; if you have input on how to improve our Town Hall follow-up going forward, feel free to contact Sol Villarreal in my office at sol.villarreal@seattle.gov or 206-427-3062.

For other opportunities to talk to myself or other City staff in your community please see our Public Outreach and Engagement Calendar at http://seattle.gov/engage/access.htm, and as always, please write to me with any questions, comments, or concerns that you have at mike.mcginn@seattle.gov.

It’s an honor to be able to serve as your Mayor; I’ll look forward to seeing you again soon.

Mike McGinn

(You can read a compilation of the February 15 town hall discussion here and see complete video of the event here.)

Broadstripe issues resurgent

A flood of messages on the BAN and Beacon Hill neighborhood mailing lists this weekend appear to indicate that over the last several days, widespread connectivity and bandwidth issues have been affecting Broadstripe customers on the hill.

Some neighbors have observed significant packet loss, an issue that has a definite negative effect on data throughput. At 13th and Atlantic, Kevin D. noted when using the pingtest.net website that he was “getting 7% and 8% packet loss regularly. Upwards of 28-31% packet loss as the worst case.”

Amy K., having attended last week’s UPTUN meeting, recommends some people to contact with complaints:

Please send your complaints to Broadstripe and City of Seattle as listed below.

Seattle office: (800) 781-0947
(Monday-Friday) 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. PST
(Saturday) 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. PST
John Bjorn: jbjorn@broadstripe.com

City of Seattle:
Office of Cable Communications – http://www.seattle.gov/cable/
Tony Perez: tony.perez@seattle.gov

Residents in Mid- and South Beacon Hill have Qwest DSL options. Most of North Beacon is too far from a “central office” to get adequate DSL service. Clear wireless internet is available throughout the hill, but many residents find it difficult to get adequate reception quality.

(We, too, are Broadstripe internet customers located near Beacon Ave and South Stevens. Our most recent tests at 8:30 pm show 9 Mbit/sec downloads and 2 Mbit/sec uploads via speedtest.net — we’d love to know what your speeds are like and where. Please give it a try yourself and note your results in the comments.)

Beacon Bits: Did you say sushi?

In the Jefferson Park Playground. Photo by go-team in the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool on Flickr.
A nice view nearby from Amy Watson’s new office (via Twitter).

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The Seattle Public Utilities advisory committees for Solid Waste and Water Systems are both seeking south-end volunteers. Apply before November 17th for the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, and before November 30 for the Water Systems Advisory Committee.

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UPTUN (Upping Technology for Underserved Neighbors), a broadband equality group working for central and southeast Seattle neighborhoods, hosts its third quarter meeting with Broadstripe, Reclaim the Media, and city representatives at the Central Area Senior Center, 500 30th Avenue South, on Tuesday, November 16 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm.

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The Jefferson Park Lawn Bowling Club can do a bit of bragging: member Jeff Covell was part of the team that achieved a first place win at the 2010 USLBA National Lawn Bowling Championships in Sun City, Arizona.

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The November episode of UW 360 on UWTV features Beacon Hill’s “Fisher House,” a residence for families of veterans being treated at the VA hospital nearby.

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Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen will be at the Beacon Hill library, 2821 Beacon Avenue South, on Saturday the 13th from 1:00 to 2:30pm to speak “informal[ly] yet meaningful[ly] about our city” with residents. He’d “like to hear people’s thoughts regarding next year’s budget, transportation issues, as well as other topics relevant to Seattleites.”

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United Way of King County is looking for tax preparation volunteers to help weekly at El Centro de la Raza. No experience is necessary and training will be provided. Spanish speakers are especially sought.

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David Schmader at The Stranger loves on Inay’s drag night. And note the remark near the end of the article: “Ernie is open to eventually hosting shows all weekend, but for now his plate is full with food. He’s joining forces with Luis Rodriguez (owner of new and already beloved Beacon Hill coffeehouse the Station) to open Taqueria Frida, situated on the same block as Inay’s and scheduled for a November opening. And he’s in perpetual talks with his friend Dave Nakamura—aka Super Dave, the sushi-chef superhero—to ‘give Beacon Hill the sushi restaurant it deserves.'”

The possibility of the sushi restauranton Beacon Hill was also mentioned briefly in The Stranger‘s Chow column.

* * *

A couple of land use applications were recently filed: Rubberized track, lighting, parking, and a synthetic playing surface for Jefferson Playfield, and Clearwire antennas and microwave dishes to be installed atop a building at 15th and Bayview.

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Volunteer positions are open for the Seattle Design Review Board. Get your application in by December 10th.

Meet Broadstripe with UPTUN this Thursday

Seattle Broadstripe customers, many of whom are on Beacon Hill, are encouraged to attend the second quarterly meeting between Broadstripe, the City of Seattle Department of Technology, and volunteer community group Upping Technology for Underserved Neighbors (UPTUN) this Thursday, June 24th, from 5:30 to 7:00 PM in the Bank of America Conference Room at Promenade Plaza, 23rd and Jackson.

UPTUN contends that Broadstripe services for customers in their franchise area are priced higher and are of lower quality than those offered by their competitors servicing other neighborhoods. (We imagine this is an opinion held by many neighbors.) UPTUN also describes a few less-direct effects that poor cable and broadband service has on a neighborhood: Tenants don’t want to lease and condo buyers don’t want to purchase when they find out they must use Broadstripe, negatively affecting vacancy rates; telecommuters and home businesses cannot count on Broadstripe to do their work; substandard services provided by the city and Broadstripe reinforce perceptions and stereotypes that the afflicted neighborhoods are of lesser value than others; and poor service through Broadstripe not only discourages families from moving in, but also provides an incentive to leave the neighborhood.

UPTUN’s quarterly meetings are held to ensure the improvements promised in the 2010 Work Plan are completed, and completed on-schedule.

Contact tracyb@uptun.org for more information.