Followup: West Seattle plan for Gigabit Squared’s mega-fast broadband

Who wouldn’t love faster Internet access – if affordable? The cautiously excited reaction on Tuesday was no surprise after we published word that Mayor McGinn announced in his “State of the City” speech that part of the West Seattle Junction area had been added to the planned mega-fast “demonstration” service planned by Gigabit Squared. We promised a followup, and talked this afternoon with Mark Ansboury from Gigabit Squared and the City of Seattle’s Chief Technology Officer Erin Devoto. Here’s what else we found out:

BOUNDARIES: *Don’t* get fixated on the borders shown on Gigabit Squared’s online map, they say. These are NOT the final boundaries, Ansboury told us – they are flexible right now as they continue with engineering work. Plus, they are also paying close attention to where they’re getting requests from (here’s where to sign up on the GB2 website). Eventually, he said, they would love to be citywide. And Devoto added, “Ultimately we want everybody to have it.” But they have said from the start that they would launch with a demonstration project of up to 100,000 households.

PRICING: “Well below 100 dollars,” per Ansboury, but they “haven’t picked the actual number yet – depends on the final cost structure.” He says they’re “trying not to offer lots of tiers,” though the service will come in various forms depending on a customer’s needs (examples here) – whether they’re a business or home, for example – and might be accessed wirelessly rather than by directly connecting with fiber. (Their technical FAQ answers a lot more questions here.)

HOW CLOSE IS THIS TO REALITY? Ansboury’s assessment is “Highly likely.” They’re working to secure financing in a variety of ways – including possibly New Markets Tax Credits. And they’re doing “due diligence, asking the hard questions” right now. They’re also spending $1.5 million on engineering and planning, for starters. “We think Seattle is the right place, right time, right commitment.” Devoto explained that a big part of the plan is the city offering leases on some unused fiber, so there’s pre-existing infrastructure for some of the system, while some of it will have to be built – especially “into neighborhoods, close to homes.” So if it can be done with fiber that exists now, we asked, why aren’t the existing providers doing it? They’re saddled with old infrastructure, according to Ansboury, while Gigabit Squared gets to start from scratch. “There’s a reason (those companies) are not reinvesting right now … they have other priorities. Yet there is this hunger and need” for the kind of service Gigabit Squared hopes to provide. Devoto points out that the city isn’t spending money on this, but they’re watching critically – if ultimately GB2 can’t deliver, others have expressed interest.

WHY IS IT A ‘DEMONSTRATION’? That’s because it’s not citywide to start with, says Ansboury – currently they’re looking at about 70,000 homes. They want to have a “sustainable business strategy” – but “assuming early success,” he added, “some investors have talked about possibly investing more.”

WHEN? Next step is for Gigabit Squared to finalize an agreement with the city – they’re hoping that will happen in April; the ongoing engineering work will have a lot to do with that. If it does, construction is likely “in the summer time frame,” Ansboury says, and the would “hope for soft launch of a smaller part of the demonstration area in the fourth quarter of this year,” launching more in the first quarter of next year.

WHY? “We got into this business because we wanted to be catalytic,” Ansboury explained – basically, while the U.S. is supposed to be pursuing world-class broadband service, things weren’t moving very fast in reality, so they jumped in. Everyone’s calling for “innovation” in so many things, he notes, “but if we don’t have broadband, we can’t have innovation.” So – they’re innovating to get mega-fast broadband to more people. “You don’t have to be a Google to do this.”

Again, if you’re interested, sign up here – no obligation, but their website promises that areas showing lots of interest could move up the priority list.

21 Replies to "Followup: West Seattle plan for Gigabit Squared's mega-fast broadband"

  • Westseattledood February 21, 2013 (5:48 pm)

    To all my neighbors reading, that’s your cue to click and sign up.

    Let’s get this baby rolled out in our hoods! SIGN UP and then share the story link with everyone you can think of within our potential West Seattle target zones.

    This level of wiredness would add BIG value to our homes and community, even if perhaps we can’t afford the initial offerings.

    I am still not going to get too psyched up, BUT I do encourage my hoodies to sign up too – just in case that is all it really takes to get out from the clutches of Comcast and Century. Know mean?

  • WSRes February 21, 2013 (6:24 pm)

    I’m guessing this is a fiber optic network and not a satelite based network e.g. are there latency issues? I looked at the tech pages and only saw the bandwidth mentioned and nothing about latency.

  • Citizen Sane February 21, 2013 (6:58 pm)

    Fast internet in the Junction area. Not run by Comcast or C-Link. You bet. hahahaha

  • toodles February 21, 2013 (8:16 pm)

    Ok… what’s the catch?

    • WSB February 21, 2013 (8:20 pm)

      Funny, toodles, that is EXACTLY what I asked them at the end of our call. No real catch but – it’s untried and it’s up to GB2 to prove they really can do this, otherwise, said Devoto, the city has other possible organizations/businesses they can pursue.

  • Stark February 21, 2013 (8:56 pm)

    The numbers say it’s worth the trial run. Only time will tell.

  • sam-c February 22, 2013 (7:00 am)

    The ‘here’s where to sign up’ link doesn’t work for me, anyone else have any luck? would love to sign up and hope that they expand to other areas. C-Link doesn’t serve our area, I don’t want to do business with Comcrap, and Clearwire is getting frustratingly slow. would love internet service where you don’t have to sign up for 3 other things in order to get a decent price.

  • JoAnne February 22, 2013 (8:08 am)

    New Market Tax credits for impoverished neighborhoods? Really?
    Seattle wasted millions of tax dollars installing fiber optic cables downtown. The cables lead nowhere and connect to nothing.
    Sounds like GB2 will be catalytic all right…a catalyst for greedy Seattle politicians.

  • Mat February 22, 2013 (10:05 am)

    Checking in to say I couldn’t ‘sign up’ either, the page is throwing a 404.

    Shame, I’d love to encourage them to come to my part of the neighborhood as I dream of the day I’ll be able to tell Comcast to ‘piss off’ for good.

  • Doug (Gigabit Squared) February 22, 2013 (10:48 am)

    The author has given you the wrong link… easy mistake… go directly to

  • Mark February 22, 2013 (2:15 pm)

    I know you said don’t get too hung up on the location. But DOH, it ends one block north of me. I signed up… fingers crossed!

  • westseattledood February 22, 2013 (2:35 pm)

    Both links to the sign up page “work fine” per WSB’s editor. Maybe refresh your browsers? Keep sharing the link…,

  • DBP February 22, 2013 (3:17 pm)

    PRICING: “Well below 100 dollars.”  

    Big Duckin Deal.
    Look, if you can’t beat Comcast significantly on price then don’t even bother. And if you come in higher than Comcast’s price, you’re actually HURTING us, because that will cause Comcast to boost their already obscene rates even higher.
    Internet Providers of Seattle: Hear me!
    What we really need is cheaper, not faster.

  • Jeff February 22, 2013 (3:26 pm)

    Speak for yourself DBP. I’ll happy pay “well below $100” for a service that is advertised as being 50 times faster than Comcast, and doesn’t require me to also buy TV service I never use.

  • David P February 22, 2013 (3:34 pm)

    I’m with Jeff on this. Honestly I would happily pay -more- than $100/mth for 50x the speed.

  • sam-c February 22, 2013 (3:37 pm)

    no, the first “sign up” link didn’t work originally but it works now, maybe it was updated after the helpful commment from Doug.

  • Rumbles February 22, 2013 (6:36 pm)

    I’d love to see Comcast hit the bricks!

  • Rumbles February 22, 2013 (6:37 pm)

    I’d love to see Com-worst hit the bricks!

  • timh2o February 22, 2013 (7:56 pm)

    The whole seems kind of flakey to me. I guess signing up with a non-commitment but interested wouldn’t hurt. I don’t understand why the big boys don’t move with this, Comcast, Qwest etc.

    • WSB February 22, 2013 (8:05 pm)

      TimH20 – I asked that question during the interview. The GB2 reply was that the existing companies are saddled with old infrastructure that was built for something else and would have to invest a ton more to get up to speed- literally and figuratively. Comcast was built for tv cable, CenturyLink (ex-Qwest) built for phone service. GB2 has the advantage of starting from scratch now.

  • eyeThink March 7, 2013 (4:04 pm)

    If you want cheap internet, and speed is not an issue, there is always dial up! Gotta pay for a land line though.

    I don’t watch TV, but I have to pay for cable (don’t even have the boxes to use it) to make my internet ‘cheaper’. Please I need to call up every 6 months and beg for it not to get over 80 bucks.

    Well under $100 for something 50 times the speed is a great deal.

Sorry, comment time is over.