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Comcast spends to defeat Seattle mayor

Mon, 11/04/2013 - 1:22pm
Brian Santo

Hoping to help defeat the mayor of Seattle who is running for reelection, Comcast is making donations to political action committees supporting his rival. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is pursuing a public-private partnership to bring fiber-based broadband to one of his city’s neighborhoods.

McGinn believes that high-speed broadband is critical for business development, especially in a technology hub like Seattle; securing high-speed broadband was part of his campaign platform in 2009 when he was first elected. Seattle threw its name into the hat to become one of the first sites for Google fiber, but lost out to Kansas City. Meanwhile, incumbent service providers, notably Comcast, declined to install fiber to the premises.

Local laws prohibited government agencies from getting involved in broadband projects. McGinn got those overturned, and layed out a municipal program of installing fiber (the city already had some dark fiber). The current plan includes connecting 14 Seattle neighborhoods. The city contracted with Gigabit Squared to actually run the network.

Gigabit Squared last summer announced it would undercut Comcast with offers of $45 dollars a month for 100 Mbps service or $80 a month for 1 Gbps service.

Comcast subsequently began contributing money to political action committees (PACs) that are supporting state senator Ed Murray’s campaign to unseat McGinn, in a story first covered by The Washington Post.  The paper reports that Comcast is the single largest contributor to many of the PACs it has donated to.

Comcast has a history of fighting municipal networks. The company was reported to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2011 to defeat a measure in Longmont, Colo., that would overturn prohibitions keeping that city from involvement in broadband projects. The measure passed.

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