Seattle Adopts Bill to Facilitate High-Speed Fiber Network Deployment

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council approved legislation that will help expand high-speed fiber network deployment by removing excessive administrative requirements for the siting of new broadband cabinets, incentivizing smaller cabinets that deliver higher speeds and requiring landscaping and screening in neighborhoods.

All neighborhoods will benefit, but the changes will initially help companies like CenturyLink launch 1 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) fiber Internet service to Beacon Hill, the Central District, Ballard and West Seattle. New cabinets are necessary for the delivery of 1 Gbps service. One gigabit per second is equivalent to 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps). According to speedtest.net in Seattle, the current average download and upload speeds are 34.95 Mbps and 19.85 Mbps.

Removing Barriers to Fiber Buildouts 

"This critical change will bring next-generation broadband to unserved and underserved neighborhoods," said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. "We have gone through an extensive community process to get to this point, balancing the concerns of homeowners, street character and the desire to push fiber further out into neighborhoods. Next-generation fiber broadband is vital for our students' education, helps mitigate traffic by allowing residents to work from home, and businesses and startups benefit by stimulating innovation and jobs. We must continue to think outside the box to create an environment competitive for companies to build fiber to your home and business."

"This legislation is a win-win for neighborhoods. Underserved neighborhoods will receive a lightning-fast level of broadband service, while the visual clutter typically associated with these communications cabinets will be greatly reduced. I look forward to the expansion of this service throughout the city," said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, chair of the Transportation Committee.

A Community Reaches Consensus

Beginning in January 2013, SDOT began engaging with stakeholder groups and sought feedback on siting issues for new telecommunication cabinets in the public right-of-way and held meetings with stakeholders from North Beacon Hill, Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board, Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities, Citizens' Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board, Public Space Management Task Force, Department of Information Technology, Department of Planning and Development, Office of Economic Development, Seattle City Light, CenturyLink, AT&T, Comcast, Wave, Verizon and various other community groups. The consensus of the group concluded that new legislation must prioritize:

  1. Improving broadband deployment, especially in underserved areas;

  2. Keeping our public spaces and rights-of-way free from visual clutter; and

  3. Maintaining other priorities for the public spaces and rights-of-way for community activation goals.


Council Bill 118208 will help broadband deployment by:

  1. Incentivizing smaller cabinets (less than 36") that deliver faster connection bandwidth by streamlining the permitting and outreach requirements.

  2. Providing a dis-incentive for siting larger cabinets by requiring additional public outreach and visual mitigation for cabinets taller than 36".

  3. Eliminating veto power from adjacent property owner as currently required in SDOT Director's Rule 2-2009.

  4. Eliminating requirement of obtaining 60 percent approval from within 100 feet on proposed installation as currently required by SDOT Director's Rule 2-2009.

  5. Requiring written notification to all residents, businesses, and property owners within 100-foot radius if the proposed installation cabinet is greater than 36 inches in height.

  6. Requiring screening mitigation such as landscaping and vinyl wrap for new cabinet installations in residential zones above 36 inches.

  7. Removing graffiti in a timely manner.

  8. Requiring all service providers to submit quarterly reports to SDOT that describe each complaint received, how complaint was resolved, and how long it took to resolve the complaint.

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