Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Andrea Peterson reports in the Washington Post that one of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's big policy initiatives has been expanding the quality and quantity of high-speed Internet access throughout the city. However incumbent providers, particularly Comcast, have invested heavily in defeating McGinn in the mayoral election. While Comcast denies there is any connection between McGinn's broadband policies and their donations, the company has given thousands of dollars to PACs that have, in turn, given heavily to anti-McGinn groups. One of McGinn's core promises in the 2009 campaign was to "develop a city-wide broadband system." The mayor considered creating a citywide broadband system as a public utility, like water or electricity. But aides say that would have been too expensive, so the mayor settled on public-private partnerships using city-owned dark fiber. This dark fiber was laid down starting in 1995, and the mayor's office now says there are some 535 miles of it, only a fraction of which is being used. In June, the partnership, called Gigabit Squared, announced pricing for its Seattle service: $45 dollars a month for 100 Mbps service or $80 a month for 1 Gbps service plus a one-time installation cost of $350 that will be waived for customers signing a one-year contract. For comparison, Comcast, one of the primary Internet providers in the area, offers 105 Mbps service in the area for $114.99 a month according to their website. In a statement to The Post, Comcast denied their donations to the Murray campaign were related "in any way to any actions of the current Mayor," instead saying they reflected their prior support for Murray's state senate campaign. If Comcast is indeed attempting to sway the election, it would fall in line with a larger pattern of telecom interests lobbying against municipal efforts to create their own municipal broadband systems or leveraging city-owner fiber resources to create more competition for incumbent providers. "A loss for McGinn on Tuesday probably won't mean the end of Gigabit Squared's work in the Seattle metro area, though it could curtail Gigabit Squared's plans to expand to other parts of Seattle," writes Peterson. "More importantly, though, if Comcast's donations help Murray defeat McGinn, it will send a powerful message to mayors in other American cities considering initiatives to increase broadband competition."
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