Seattle’s fiber-to-the-home project is no more, at least for now. Mayor Ed Murray announced last week that the city has been forced to put the kibosh on current plans for offerings residents very, very large helpings of Internet connectivity.
“The City is now at a crossroads and a new fiber strategy needs to be, and will be, explored,” Murray said in a statement, assuring the public that “access to a fiber-to-the-home network in Seattle is not ‘dead’ as has been reported over the last few days.” But the Ohio-based company behind the plan, Gigabit Squared, has been going through tough times. It has struggled to get funding, and its co-founder and president recently left the company. Murray, who has been in office all of a week and inherited the deal from the last mayor, said the firm still owes the city some $52,250.
This is yet another instance where it’s good to be Google. Other cities have pulled off fiber-to-the home projects on their own — Chattanooga, for example. But the economics of building out fiber networks are complicated. It helps to have Google’s near-bottomless coffers and willingness to take on risk. That’s why, in my Forefront profile of Google’s rollout in Kansas City, one local official called Google’s interest in KC “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect our community.” Other cities will have to work a bit harder.
Nancy Scola is a Washington, DC-based journalist whose work tends to focus on the intersections of technology, politics, and public policy. Shortly after returning from Havana she started as a tech reporter at POLITICO.