Details are still being finalized but the city has signed a memorandum of understanding with Gigabit Squared, a Washington, D.C., venture backed by manufacturers of networking gear and other investors.
Gigabit has proposed a test project that will offer fiber-optic broadband service to a relatively small number of homes in 12 neighborhoods. Gigabit also plans to use the city's network as the foundation for wireless service - like souped-up WiFi - that it would use to provide additional service in some neighborhoods.
Some residents would be able to connect via fiber cables that extend to the home while others would be served by the wireless service. Gigabit Squared is now collecting names of interested residents at Gigabitseattle.com.
In July Seattle abandoned nearly a decade of planning to develop a citywide, municipal broadband service. Instead, Mayor Mike McGinn opted to begin divvying up access to the government network connecting city facilities, which cost more than $50 million to install.
Developing a citywide, city-operated broadband service was also one of three key campaign promises made by McGinn when he ran for office in 2009. Today's deal is a far cry from the original vision, though it could prod entrenched providers such as Comcast and CenturyLink to improve their services and compete with the newcomer.
With the project, Seattle joins Kansas City and Chattanooga as one of the leading cities pursuing new broadband systems, according to Blair Levin, a former top staffer at the FCC and co-author of the national broadband plan who is now involved with the Seattle consortium.
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