Comcast offers Internet Essentials to Seattle seniors

Low-income seniors (62+ years old) now qualify for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program.  Comcast’s Internet Essentials program offers cable home internet with speeds up to 10 Mbps for $9.95 (plus tax) per month.  Qualified recipients will receive a modem, wireless router and home installation for free with no credit check.  You cannot currently be a Comcast internet customer (must be off of Comcast internet for 90 days) and you must not have any recent Comcast debt under one year old.  Low income seniors in Seattle who are on the Utility Discount Program with the City of Seattle qualify, in addition to other low-income programs.  Visit https://internetessentials.com/seniors or call 1-855-850-4550 to see if you qualify.

CenturyLink opens Seattle customer service center

Seattle residents now have a local place to visit to pay their bill, discuss account issues or test new CenturyLink cable products. On April 1, 2016, CenturyLink opened its Seattle customer service center/retail store in north Seattle, in the Greenwood area. The location has customer parking and is also accessible by Metro bus routes 5, 48, 82, 355 and 994.

The service center is located in ‘Piper Village’, 8528 Palatine Ave N, Seattle, 98103. It has a local phone number customers can call to talk with a local CenturyLink representative: (206) 789-1132. Service Center hours are:

Monday-Friday: 9:00 am – 7:00 p.m.

Saturday:  9:00 am – 5:00 p.m.

Sunday: Closed

Note that CenturyLink does not accept equipment at their local centers, and is not able to exchange equipment, either. All equipment for CenturyLink customers is handled through mail service. Call them at (206) 789-1132 or (877) 837-5738.

If you’re a Seattle cable customer, be sure you know your rights under the City’s Cable Customer Bill of Rights. If you ever have an issue you can’t resolve with your cable operator, you can contact Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications for assistance at (206) 684-8498 or file an on-line request here: City Service Request Form: Cable Issue.

How fast is your Internet?

Last month the City of Seattle launched a new tool to collect resident internet speeds. To date, nearly 1,600 tests have been taken.

The Seattle Broadband Speed Test tool measures the upload and download speeds available to residential users at the time they take the test. Using this test, residents can check their speeds from any device at any time of day. When enough data is collected from a given census block, the results are displayed on a map. The data are also published to the City’s open data portal, data.seattle.gov.

Today, 97 percent of Seattle households can connect to broadband internet and more than 160,000 homes have access to gigabit fiber-to-the-premise broadband. Some households have a choice of two, and in some areas three, wired broadband providers; and most parts of the city have access to four or more wireless broadband providers. In practice, however, many households do not experience peak speeds due to using devices with older networking technologies, experiencing wireless interference or slowness during peak usage times, or purchasing slower or no home internet at all.

The crowdsourced data will help the City and its partners make data-driven decisions when prioritizing future broadband and digital equity efforts. Currently, the City is reducing barriers to broadband investment, investing in public/private partnerships, and exploring ways we can increase access to the internet in underserved areas. Over the past 18 months, these strategies have resulted in an increase in access to gigabit-speed broadband from 7 percent of Seattle households to more than 60 percent.

The Seattle Broadband Speed Test was developed in partnership with New America’s Open Technology Institute and Open Seattle. It utilizes technology provided by Measurement Lab (M-Lab), a consortium of research, industry, and public interest partners that collects Open Internet performance data. This technology is also used by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for its Measuring Broadband America study.

Take the Seattle Broadband Speed Test!

Learn more about the Open Technology Institute. [Link to www.newamerica.org/oti ]

Learn more about M-Lab. [Link to www.measurementlab.net ]

Learn more about Open Seattle. [Link to www.openseattle.org ]

 

Digital NW Broadband Summit March 21

Join local and federal policymakers from across the Northwest region for a free Broadband Summit in Seattle on March 20-21, 2016, hosted by Next Century Cities and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). At the Regional Summit, broadband leaders, including mayors, industry experts, and federal and municipal officials, will share successes and real-world impacts from next-generation broadband access.

The summit will feature panels on what works, success stories, increasing access, digital inclusion, rural broadband applications, innovation partnerships, broadband business models, and options for financing. There will also be an opening reception the evening of the 20.

See more information, presenters and registration link.

Mayors support FCC proposal on low income broadband

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has joined mayors and city officials from across the country to support the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal to improve internet access for low-income families through the federal Lifeline program.

“Lifeline modernization will benefit our community members and help us tackle the pressing but rewarding challenges of local governance,” the 44 mayors wrote to the FCC. “Getting more low-income households online will help modernize delivery of public services. Most importantly, Lifeline modernization will help our school children and give them better opportunities to succeed.”

The letter was coordinated by Next Century Cities, a nonprofit membership organization of mayors and other elected city leaders working to ensure fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access for all of their residents.

“Since its inception, the Lifeline program has helped millions of American families have access to critical telecommunications services,” said Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities. “These 44 Next Century Cities mayors and city leaders hope to bring the Lifeline program into the 21st century by including the essential broadband infrastructure that so many of their residents rely on today.”

In the letter, city leaders encouraged the FCC to ratify the proposal to modernize the Lifeline program, stressing the need to put broadband in reach for low-income families in order to enhance education, civic engagement, and economic opportunity. The mayors’ letter also specified principles they support in a Lifeline proposal, including a portable benefit that promotes competition and a budget-neutral approach to Lifeline modernization.        

– See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/mayors-support-fcc-proposal-on-broadband-access-for-lower-income-families/#sthash.Y1KtheVa.IykBfxqd.dpuf

Wave Cable Customers – Save the Date June 8

The City’s Office of Cable and Broadband invites Wave cable customers to a community meeting to give your input on Wave’s performance as a cable service provider.  Wave’s current franchise with the City expires in 2017.

Event details:

Monday, June 8, 2015, 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Douglas Truth Library, 23rd and Yelser

For more information on this meeting, franchise renewal, or to share your thoughts on Wave’s performance, email cableoffice@seattle.gov or call (206) 684-8498.

Hey cities, why not neighbors that share broadband?

The National League of Cities blog features a call for municipal broadband programs and policies to increase affordability by enabling greater sharing of Internet service. The proposal is written by two longtime community technology experts, Angela Siefer, adjunct fellow at the Pell Center at Salve Regina University and Bill Callahan, director of Connect Your Community.

Internet’s Hot Newsmaker: Net Neutrality

It was hard to make it through 2014 without coming across the term Net Neutrality somewhere, whether a newspaper headline, an online blog, a television story, or a radio program. In just the first seven months of 2014, the term was cited in tens of thousands of news sources, blog posts and Tweets. Why has Net Neutrality been such a hot topic? It started with a January 2014 court decision that changed the legal framework protecting the concept and ignited the very public debate over whether – and how – Net Neutrality would be protected into the future.

Prior to this debate, most of us used the Internet every day, never being aware of how the concept of Net Neutrality (short for ‘network neutrality’) impacted our experience.  The network neutrality principle is what allowed us to have an Internet where the companies providing our Internet access, like Comcast, Wave, or CenturyLink, would treat all Internet traffic equally regardless of what the content is, where it comes from, or where it is going. The role of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) was to provide us with a ‘neutral pipe’ to the Internet, and not to interfere with our access to any content over the pipe. The Internet has operated this way since its beginning.

Without network neutrality protections, an ISP could decide it is no longer going to be a completely neutral pipe, and is not going to treat all Internet content equally. Instead it could give preference to their own content or charge other content providers for ensuring their content is not slower than the ISP’s content. This could lead to a future Internet where bigger companies have the best access to you via the Internet, while smaller, independent sources of content, applications and dissenting opinions could be harder to reach. It could mean the end of the open Internet access that’s been enjoyed by users for the past 20+ years.

This concern is what fueled the past year’s Net Neutrality debate. It is also what prompted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to open a rule-making process to determine how to best protect the concept under a different legal framework (see FCC Chairman Statement on Rule Making to Protect & Promote the Open Internet). The FCC process began with asking for public input for the rule-making. So many comments were received that it overwhelmed the FCC’s web site and caused them to extend the public comment period.  In the end, over 3.7 million public comments were received.

During this debate, Seattle’s Mayor Murray has been a strong supporter of protecting network neutrality, stating “The Internet thrived because anyone could use the network to communicate, collaborate and create applications, without any unnecessary interference from network owners.” Without network neutrality protections, and with the possibility an ISP could interfere with equal network access, the Mayor is concerned it “will inhibit innovation, decrease research and development, and hurt Seattle’s economy.” In August, he sent a letter to the FCC stating Seattle’s support for protecting network neutrality principles (see Mayor Murray’s letter to FCC on Net Neutrality).

In November, Mayor Murray joined the mayors of New York, San Francisco and Portland (OR) in sending a letter to federal lawmakers asking them to support President Obama’s call for the FCC to reclassify the Internet to be a ‘telecommunication service.’ Currently, Internet service is classified as an ‘information service’ and almost totally unregulated. As a ‘telecommunication service’ it would be subject to utility-style regulation (like the phone company) which could ensure Internet service companies continue to treat access to all Internet content equally.

This approach to ensuring network neutrality is only one of the options being considered by the FCC. It is the approach favored by President Obama (see www.whitehouse.gov/net-neutrality) and many others, but there is also plenty of opposition to reclassifying Internet service as a telecommunication service. Opponents say the healthy development of the Internet was the result of it being an unregulated service, not because of government regulation. Adding on regulations now would make it more burdensome for an Internet service company and cause private companies to stop investing in the infrastructure needed to bring Internet services to users. An example of an opposition argument is here: Harvard Business Review: Why the Public Utility Model Is the Wrong Approach for Internet Regulation).

As a new year begins, the Net Neutrality issue remains an open and important national debate. The FCC will be working through the millions of comments it received and continuing with its new rule-making process.  If the future openness of the Internet remains a broad concern, you can expect to see Net Neutrality as a hot newsmaker in 2015 too.

Watch public broadband forum with Chris Mitchell

The video of the talk by Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, presented in Seattle in October, is now available online. He discussed the realistic feasibility of a municipally-owned broadband network that delivers high-speed Internet access. This event was sponsored by the City of Seattle’s Technology Advisory Board (CTTAB) and Brown Paper Tickets, with support from the Department of Information Technology. Watch the Community Broadband Forum here.