Seattle just announced a project to add "Gigabit Network" to the list of reasons you want to live and do business in their city. In partnership with Gigabit Squared, the city soon will have 12 neighborhoods with gigabit infrastructure delivering wired and wireless services.
Seattle Acting CTO Erin Devoto and Ed Lazowska, Seattle's U. of Washington pointman on the project (Bill & Melinda Gates Chair at UW), explain the details of the deal and how they expect this project to benefit city stakeholders. Seattle represents a growing trend of cities and counties taking a more active role and using "untraditional" means to get broadband into their communities.
Listeners get a breakdown of the key elements of this initiative, details on how these elements will come together, and a list of both short- and long-term objectives for the project. Devoto and Lazowska also offer tips and recommendations for other cities that want to be a part of this movement for community-driven broadband.
This is Gigabit Nation -- public, private and non-profit organizations tackle important issue in getting broadband everywhere it needs to be. Today is number one, besides being the last show of the year, I'm going to look at one particular community that I have heard about since the beginning of my time being involved with community broadband back in 2005. And at that time, Seattle I think was one of the few places, especially this I think a few larger cities that we're having serious discussions about having a fiber network throughout the city and it's been a discussion and it's been in the news off and on and at one point, look back it is going to be not just a dream and then all of a sudden, we get the announcement that the Seattle has gone through a partnership with Gigabit Squared to, in essence, create some pilot projects exploring Gigabit capabilities and I am assuming and we will soon know longer because we will actually ask the question that this will grow into a much broader broadband endeavor. So today, our guests -- our two guests, here we have Erin Devoto who is acting CTO for the city of Seattle and also Ed Lazowska who is a Bill and Melinda Gates Chair at the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the University of Washington and the university is a key player or partner in this adventure as well as Gigabit Squared and so both of you, Erin and Ed, thank you and welcome to the show.
Happy to be here!
So let's talk about what's the deal, what exactly is the partnership and then we'll branch off and talk a little bit about the history how you guys -- you know, how the city got to this point and then what it means for the city. So Erin, we'll start with you and then Ed you can describe your roles and then kind of get us to, you know, what exactly has been announced here.
Sure, I'd be happy to. So, it's a little complicated and so bear with me a little bit. The University of Washington and city of Seattle have jointly agreed to become part of the Gig.U consortium that consists of 37 cities and universities across the United States who are interested in promoting Fiber-to-the-Home deployment. As part of that, Gigabit Squared responded to Gig.U's RFT and the university and city of Seattle met with Gigabit Squared and started conversations in middle of last year about how we could partner together to move something forward. In the meantime, Gigabit Squared put out in RFT that the city and the university responded to and in late September or October of this year, Gigabit Squared came to us and said they wanted to partner with the two of us to look at building a demonstration project within the city of Seattle. So the particulars of the projects are that the city has had legislation passed last summer that allows us to lease our excess fiber across the city and that has allowed us to begin conversations with people like Gigabit Squared and other firms. Gigabit Squared came to us and said, "You know, what would you propose and here are some criteria" and so the university and the city came back to Gigabit Squared and said, "Here's you know, here are some ideas for you". So, the proposal and what Gigabit Squared intends to do is to look at targeted areas in the city of Seattle where the criteria, there is density, there is fiber in the air and they want to serve communities that do not have choices for internet service and they proposed to set up several different services as they go forward in the next 24 months, but their goal is to provide Fiber-to-the-Home to over a hundred thousand population and that equates to about 50,000 households within the city of Seattle. If there is enough demand, they would like to expand that everywhere in Seattle.
Let's talk a little bit about your role to pass the obvious questions, what is the chair, you know, in reference to the foundation and then what was your role in the process getting up to this point.
Well, let me talk about the university's role rather than or in addition to my personal role. I think the University of Washington has been a partner with the city of Seattle going back literally decades in Telecommunications. So as an example, very early on, there was a fiber sharing agreement and also a pole ordinance and I get the legal details totally wrong. But the first approximation, the fiber sharing agreement allowed the city and the county and the university to share fiber assets where appropriate and the pole ordinance allowed organizations, governmental organizations such as the university which is a public university and the city to have fiber pole that marginal cost when telecommunications companies were up the poles anywhere, anyway the way to think about them, okay? And the result of that has been a really robust fiber infrastructure that the city and the university and the county have accessed to and these assets are really important -- their important to the University of Washington because while we have a campus post to half of our buildings aren't on the campus and some of them are a hundred miles away and having reliable high performance cost effective access to them is critically important. So this partnership really goes back a very long way. At the same time, we could talk more about this later, but UW has been involved in all of the stages of bringing advanced research and education broadband at the Pacific Northwest. That dates back to bringing ARPANET here in 1980. I arrived in 1977 and in 1980, we wrote a major federal research grant that brought ARPANET, the precursor of the internet, here at the time when there were fewer than 200 computers on the global communication network. There of course are more than a billion today.
So notion of universities being sort of the anchor tenants for advanced broadband and working with their cities and their municipalities to drive it out goes back a really long way and this is just a successor to that. We and the city had been working a long time with Blair Levin who has been -- originally wrote the FCC broadband plan and now has been pushing it forward as a private effort. So the role here was helping to work as a partner and bring the partners together to try and deploy more advanced broadband in the city of Seattle. We're stuck in this Catch-22. I always describe it in which our nation really doesn't have advanced broadband. Again, we can say more about the statistics of that in a second and the result of that is we don't have advanced applications and the result of that is we don't have customers for advanced broadband and that has been used as an excuse for not deploying broadband, but constantly pushing forward from 56k modems to the sort of internet access we have today at 10 megabits to the future. This is essential to economic vitality of the city of Seattle and King county and the state of Washington, the whole nation, and the tragedy is that our nation invented all of these stuff and we are miles away today for being the world's leader. We've been run over by all sorts of other nations and we've got to correct that and this is a step in that direction to sort of break out of this circular Catch-22 in which everybody has an excuse for not doing what as a region and nation we need to do.
Okay. Now, the takeaway from what you two have just described, I chose the two. One is there is great value in a university-city partnership relationship because a lot of your ability to move forward, the way you're moving forward now is possible because of that relationship between university and the city. The second takeaway is that a city needs to look at, you know, what are their existing resources because again it sounds like there were resources already in place. Let's say you have dark fiber, the university has assets and so forth and then our larger cities in particular solely get the sense that there are probably some of the foundations for a better faster broadband. It's someone with sort of stop and take inventory of their assets. Are those two fairly valid takeaway points?
Well, I would, I would add that yes they are very valid takeaway points. I think that what makes Seattle and the University of Washington a little bit more unique than some other larger cities is that we have invested in fiber since 1996 and there are 17 partners in that partnership along with the university. And so we do have some assets available that other cities may not, may not have. We also have the University of Washington and Ed can speak to this a lot better than I can, but the University of Washington is known worldwide as a health education institution and their medical system and medical teaching facilities are I think some of the best in the world. And one of the things that Ed mentioned this project will rely on is the ability to innovate applications along with just delivering the infrastructure. And so that's why the partnership with University of Washington is so critical because as we look forward, we don't even know how big this can be until we actually get some of that implemented. Did I characterize that correct, Ed?
Absolutely and I just want to indicate that this is the history of computing and communications and that is that we deploy things not necessarily knowing what their most interesting use is going to be, right? So ARPANET and the internet -- so that I could log on to an expensive computer somewhere else, right? Nobody imagined that I would be doing all of my Christmas shopping and that we would have educational applications in which single courses are enrolling 150,000 students from around the world, so no one imagined that this is how we would get our news and our government services. That wasn't the point, right? So the apps that had been created are far more interesting and far more powerful and reach far more people that was envisioned when we started. You know, my own experience when I was an undergraduate, God helped me 40 years ago. The faculty member for whom I was working was making profligate use of computing resources. We were essentially using a building-sized university computing center as a personal computer between midnight and 6 a.m. and what we were inventing was what you think of today as What You See Is What You Get Hypertext Editing, sort of Microsoft Word plus the web, right? And you know, it's very hard to imagine how that would have spread once it became cost effective. So think we have to, in some sense, take these big steps that break us out of the situations in which we find ourselves and get us to the next level.
Well, Ed and I are both very fortunate in some ways because both the university president, Michael Young, and the mayor of the city of Seattle, Michael McGinn are very willing to take the step and it's complicated to explain what all these can mean and we don't even know what all it means, but as Ed is talking about -- but I think that being brave is part of this where we know this is where we need to go and we're going to try it.
Now, what the nature of the process itself you know, there are 12 neighborhoods involved, are these are the facts, multiple pilots as opposed to say one sort of single pilot, but they're going to try different things in each of those neighborhoods, is that a correct characterizations?
Well, I don't think this has totally been settle yet, but what Gigabit Squared asked everybody to do when we responded to their request is to let them know how we think they could implement the numbers of connections based on, as I mentioned, density and low-cost deployment. So we took a step at it and suggested 12 targeted neighborhoods based on density and where they are and ability to access fiber on poles, etc. Now when Gigabit Squared starts their engineering here in January, they will take a look at that and things could change. But basically, their work criteria that had been set by Gigabit Squared that we tried to meet in our proposal is one of the reasons we were selected. But once they get their engineering on their way, things could change.
I do want to indicate that these are heterogeneous areas and neighborhoods of the city. So I would expect that the nature of use and the nature of the applications will be considerably different depending on a particular neighborhood. That doesn't make them different trials or different experiments, but it does say that we've got different people and different businesses in these 12 different areas of the city so it's a great cross section. It's by no means entirely people who can afford to pay lots of money for high-access broadband. It's very heterogeneous. Yeah.
Right. And the benefit is that being that you will get to see different types of potential applications or actual application that evolved from all of these which is going to be a good thing. Will there be a mix of businesses in those neighborhoods as well that will be part of this exercise?
Yes, there will and in addition to that what Gigabit Squared is proposing to do is to also set up very high-speed WiFi Clouds if you will by accessing 38 publicly owned buildings across the city and that will allow them at the same time that they are implementing fiber to the home. That will also allow them to set up point-to-point networks that would be accessible to businesses and multi-family dwelling.
And that's of course another asset that the city and the university have. We've got real estate and we can make that available for WiFi points of presence just like their fiber. That can be least. It's important to emphasize while there were city assets being provided here, there were no city funds being expended and the fiber, as I understand, Erin will be least. But the important thing is that we view this not as an opportunity to make scads of money by holding of the telecom company, but rather as an opportunity to drive economic development and drive the capability of our citizens and businesses which will pay back in the long term. So I think if there really is a long-term view here in which the city and the university are making assets available, I'm going to say at cost or something like that. But the goal is not to make a bunch of money, the goal is to position us for the future which is where we need to be.
And this brings up a question of focusing Seattle, a column that I wrote which is -- you know, is the city __19:05__ university going to own the business of broadband? What I mean by that is not that the city and the university own the infrastructure, own a sales process, but they own the process by which the technology is harnessed and used for the good of the various parts of the community. You know, this will include institution and economic development issue and so forth and the purpose behind the question is that -- from my opinion is that, you know, when someone else physically monetarily owns the infrastructure, the city has to step up. The community has to step up to actually get the job done of making the changes and the enhancements better that broadband are expected to deliver. How would you guys address that question?
Take it away Erin.
Do you want me first Ed or do you want me...
No, go ahead please.
Okay. So I think our role here at the city is the facilitator role and you know, we are very careful not to say to anybody and there are other firms that we are also talking too as well. We've had a lot of interest since we passed our ordinance that allows us to lose our excess fiber. And we're very careful to be clear about where we want to go, but we don't want to be in the business of telling the business how to run their business. But that I mean we know -- eventually, we want fiber to every home and business here in Seattle. We know that we want an open architecture. We know that we want low cost internet services and we know that we want to create an innovative test bed if we will so that applications we don't even know about can be used for healthcare and education. You know, we're very open-minded on this and as I mentioned, we're not putting our money in this, but we are in a facilitator role.
Uh-huh. So Ed, how do you view the idea of, you know, that the community needs to, in essence, drive the business of what broadband achieves for their community?
Well, it seems exactly right. Again, we don't know what the interesting applications could be. We don't know what the demands are going to be. We do know that this needs ultimately to be a sustainable business in which people get the services they needed, a price they could afford and the organizations that provide that are making money and I think the belief here is that with the sort of coordination and facilitation that Erin talked about, we can push things to a new level, right? That is -- we can push it to a level where greater bandwidth is available in more places for a more reasonable cost and it will be sustainable at that new state. So the goal here is to inject some coordinated effort and facilitation and get us to a new place that is also sustainable.
Now that's definitely...
But ultimately, people are going to have to be paying for this service and it's got to be the service that they need and want and again, my belief based on decades of watching technology, you know you think about what you're doing today with technology that you were doing 10 years ago, you know, digital photography, digital music, searching. You know, all of this stuff is totally different than it was a dozen years ago and we're trying to move to another new plain in the city of Seattle.
So how have been the initial reviews from the public and I sense that there has been now within the summer, there were some gnashing of teeth in certain sectors. People felt like all the cities are abandoning its broadband vision and then here you come back and zap, you know. Here, we have this partnership and there's now a clear you know, things are clearly moving forward and you have a plan. So how has the public reaction then as we then had turned around from the summer or people who like getting on board rapidly, are they excited that they are in Kansas City?
Well, thank you for bringing that up Craig because actually some of the press that we got in the summer was frankly not accurate and we had never given up on broadband. We did have a pilot, some locations where he had piloted WiFi and in some city parks and in a couple of other locations, and we got to a point where we needed to decide whether to reinvest in new equipment or not and decided that that was not really something that we should that we should focus back on Fiber-to-the-Home and businesses. So we've never given up on broadband. I have been with the city in the department of IT since 2007 and when I came on board, we have been working on this since early 2000. So we've never given up and you know, we continue to not give up, but it isn't an easy thing to do and I think that, you know, if it was everybody would be doing it so, you know, we're moving in a way that we think may facilitate the private sector being attracted to our city and one of the things about Gigabit Squared is they understand the power of needing to create powerful applications that will then drive increased use of Gigabit speed because, you know, a lot of people will say, "Well, gee my internet is fine." We have a lot of people in Seattle that actually don't say that, but a lot of people don't know what they would do with the Gigabit speed up and down and that's what it's talking about in terms of...
In the past, we didn't know what we would be doing with the internet and how it would change our lives, but we know that our countries are there and we know that they're taking advantage of it. We know that there's a role I believe for fiber installations to play a big role in how healthcare services are delivered in the future and so we're very optimistic that this is a game changer of the city of Seattle if Gigabit Squared has to go out and raise capitals. They have to do a lot of engineering, but we're there willing to facilitate all of this.
There are two extremes of how to do this and I think what we've arrived at is a reasonable middle ground. One extreme is the city builds and owns the infrastructure.
All the university could, right Ed?
All the university could yeah, alright? I mean there is even a better extreme which is Santa Claus does it. That's what Kansas City can, okay? Unfortunately, Santa Claus is only making one stop, okay. At the other extreme, you can rely 100% on the private sector and I think honestly in this nation that has not worked and the middle ground is a partnership in which everybody provides certain assets and you try and do it together and that's what the mayor and Erin and her folks have let us in doing here. It's really I think quite remarkable and it has lots of potential. I do want to emphasize and again your listeners are probably fully aware of this where the US stands in broadband and you know Seattle is not much better and not much worse than the rest of the nation. Again, we did invent this stuff if you scroll back the ARPANET and its transition to the internet and the commercialization of the internet is just one of the great successes of government and academia and the private sector working together to change the world, but these days, I mean here is just one statistic if you look at the 34 OECD nations. These are the sort of economically vibrant nations in the world. We ranked just from last, 29th in the average advertised broadband download speed and we're a factor of six lower than the top nations. So that is just one statistic. I could give you another half dozen, but other nations are way ahead of the United States today and so the issue here is not Seattle trying to catch up (cross talk) sorry?
I think the rest of the world. Obviously, I think a lot of folks are definitely aware of that and can see why Seattle's effort along with place like Kansas City and Chattanooga are important because it is an effort to close that gap both the cost and the actual technology capability, capacity -- I think they see that in your actions and they see the need of it based on -- a lot of people become aware of our standing. I mean I do not understand exactly what it means, but I think they truly understand that there is a gap and we're on the wrong side of it and that will be initially for the people understanding. Now, I do have a couple of questions like my Twitter, either in the chat room we're kind of come alive here. I'm going to give the Twitter questions first and I'm going to go to the chart room. One of my followers asked who is going to play the ISP service role in this project and are ISPs invited to compete? And I think Erin you have alluded to the fact that this is -- you are asking for other partners but on the finance, who is actually the ISP in this scenario or in this phase 1?
Well, phase 1 is Gigabit Squared, how they -- they have agreed that they will let ISP -- other ISP providers come to the table and use their network. So I don't think they have settled on one particular ISP at this point, but they are -- they have agreed that they will build an open architecture that will allow other ISPs to provide service.
Okay, so they are driving that open -- that openness if you will then having a competitive environment, which is then I think they -- I really run the show a few months ago and that is indeed their mission, it is obviously be the sector to bring that expertise, but then to also make sure that it's a competitive environment so we don't end up in the same rat hole just kind of stuff in the past not having enough competition.
On the chat room side, let's see. There is talking about nationally distributed software development projects and I'm guessing what we're talking about is I think there has been a drive to have software be strictly a digital process. I mean you don't really go to store much for certain types of software and that this will only increase as Gigabit Networks come into play. Has anyone talked about that and if you are -- since we have this, in the city side?
Well, this is not something we have focused on in the context of this initiative but the way I would think about this is that the availability of broadband has created the opportunity for all sorts of companies to specialize and to partner, right? So that means companies have partners all over the nation and all over the world and an individual company specializes in what it's good at and outsource the rest. You know, that can be a university outsourcing to someone else that pretty checks and handles its payroll for example, something that we used to do our self and it's broadband at the example something that broadband makes possible. Now, there are all kinds of new models of software development that are highly distributed and you see companies that have private network with R and D facilities all over the world working together, moving forward 7 x 24. You can imagine that that's an example of something that's gong to become much more common once we have better access to this kind of broadband. Erin has focused on health care, I have mentioned education, home energy monitoring and the smart grade is another example of this sort of distributed capability that is going to become really widespread once everybody has access to the bandwidth needed to do it. Live@Home application, supposed everybody had continuous essentially 3D virtual reality style communication with their loved ones wherever they happen to be. There is nothing technologically infusible about that. We just don't have the infrastructure to support it so I think that distributed software development teams if that was the question was about is an example of something that we're going to see once this becomes much more common.
Right so there is a sort of a part two step bands that has to happen. I mean it's one thing that you have the Gig Network there and there are people there who can develop in that environment and develop for software distribution and so forth, but you're going to need a lot more cities like Kansas City and Santa Monica and Chattanooga because you're going to need an audience. You're going to need a bigger market than just Seattle. There are plenty of folks to develop and feel like what they're hoping is to have buyers basically.
Yeah, well again that's the catch 22 right, lacking bandwidth, you lack applications so you lack customers so the private sector doesn't feel that it can make enough revenues just to find the investment of greater bandwidth. Nobody is a bad guy here. We're just stuck in this loop that we have to break out off and the goal here is to break out of that loop.
I think even from the beginning when Chattanooga became sort of the point city a year ago -- everybody is like, oh it's great, but then who's going to buy that stuff. Everybody was like part of the __35:06__ and about "Oh, what was that? Because -- we have this great city on the hill" visually speaking and -- no one is going to buy their stuff and so I think that as more communities get engaged and I don't think that started, the communities need to have a Gig Network per se. You know, as far as the populous areas you know probably won't need as much capacity. But they're definitely going to need 50 megs, 100 megs or what have you and I think these are going to become more prevalent in the next couple of years probably a large part because of the organization such as Gig.U and Gig Squared and the other folks that are driving the process. One of the things that I noticed in light of about this project is that there is going to be wired infrastructure and it is going to be wireless. First question is will the wireless be at the speed?
Their proposal is that they intend to do basically three different things at the same time and in order to get demand, they will be eventually -- as I said the main goal is to deliver Fiber-to-the-Homes, but in getting there, they will also be looking at the point to point service where businesses can then access that and get up to a gig up and down and after that they have proposed a variety of other services that -- and you can help me maybe explain the technology prior to this in the sense that it's better than WiFi. It's a licensed Wi-Fi so they have several different models and different service levels that they proposed to rule out. They do not have their cost model established yet but they do plan to provide different levels of service.
Okay. That's a good thing. I bring this up because we still have some pockets of the world, our world, US world where folks get into the hot waters of wires versus wireless and I think that if anything is -- we'll sort of signal a new dawn in 2013 is that they no longer have the sort of the big old war, it's more of a case of lunch or situation or maybe you can use wireless, what's your situation or maybe we need to go with Fiber-to-the-Premises and maybe in other cases, they need to have a combination of the two. I don't know if you have seen this in Seattle because you -- well, what does the university feel about Seattle field in 2005, like from my first part of paying attention to the issue. Seattle was actually close a bit or referenced a bit where the people will make comparisons between the cost of billing a wireless network and __38.29__ wall or gaga over doing a miniscule wireless network versus the wired and so it was a case of "well you know we can -- if your city maybe it would cost -- maybe 25 billion to have wireless all over Seattle. I think that's how they were doing the benchmark. I find it difficult by any means but we talked about in that contest. 25 or 215 million, right? It's like -- you know, it's 10 times the cost and I don't think the cost are really in line I mean I don't know if Ed might have a percent. I'm not sure how well you look at the or how the intense it will be when you look at the cost between the two options, but it seems like with cost of wired infrastructure coming down and the speed capacity of wireless coming up that we're almost going to find a point in the middle where -- really, it's going to be other factors than just cost, but will then become, well cost and speed that will become a decision that's coming to __39:37__ will be the determining factor or speed of deployment will be the determining factor but it seems like we're moving very fast for six or seven years ago.
Right. I mean -- I think broadband does not imply either wired or wireless, right. Broadband is the bandwidth we need to live and work and play and learn and you're going to provision it in the most cost effective way, that said everybody wants to be mobile right? That's another of the changes over the past decade, which is we used to be tethered and now we have the world with us in our pocket and that's an important change so we want that but maybe you don't need as great bandwidth, maybe there are areas where you can get extremely high bandwidth broadband wireless less expensively than you can get wired -- just on the university campus here, we have a set of buildings with so much asbestos in them that providing wired connectivity is going to be our problem so wireless is the way to go. We got lots of hills and lots of lakes and they may change the dynamics so I think you're exactly right. You got to use the most appropriate technology in each setting and the goal is to provide ubiquitous access to broadband.
Well said. I mean you know I have felt this for a long time and I hope that as more of these projects coming today that will almost emphasize, the emphasizing of the difference so that people will stop making it a question, Oh this time next year, no one is going to be like, well you know -- this should be okay no, you're wrong it should be like, no, it used to be just be broadband and how much speed do you need, let's keep going and we will figure out some of these other issues as it go, but yes, definitely, definitely a factor. So let's talk about for a minute, - outcomes. I'm going to like categories and you guys should tell me what types of benefits you see are growing. Let's start with economic development. So in a year after this project is developed and then move things forward, what kinds of economic development benefits do you expect and we'll start with no other than Ed.
Oh Boy! You know I would say a year is a little too soon to try to forecast what might be. You know it's kind of the old chicken and the egg, if you build it they will come sooner so. Certainly, by the end of 2014, if all goes as planned and Gigabit Squared raises their capital and is able to start setting up these point-to-point connections. I would say you know there is some economic development in terms of the jobs they are creating by building their network but beyond that once they get things set up, you know I believed that there will be the benefit is that people who haven't been able to get the service they need get the service they need. So...
So let me give an example looking backwards Erin, and correct me if I get this wrong. But it sounds like one of mayor McGinn's priorities over the past few years has been revitalizing a part of Seattle called Pioneer Square. So Pioneer Square is south of downtown but north of the sports stadium. So that was sort of the original downtown area that was rebuilt after the big fire that we had 100 and some years ago. Okay. And Pioneer Square had been doing okay, but then when the kingdom was taken down on the new sports stadiums were erected, they were constructed in a way that made it more difficult for sports fans to access the restaurants and bars and stores in Pioneer Square. Right? That's where the parking lots were located and stuff like that. From the point of view of the folks running the stadiums, obviously they would rather that when you go to a Seattle Sounders soccer game, you bought their concessions rather than having dinner in a restaurant. So you know, you can understand why this happened, right.
But the result was that Pioneer Square started falling into decay. So an example of something that the mayor tried to do because this is the key part of the city's heritage and it was really decaying. So revitalize it by getting some tech businesses to locate there. There was not adequate broadband available for those businesses, right? So the mayor worked within this case Comcast to launch an initiative that deployed far greater broadband capability in the Pioneer Square area and now you see all kinds of startups and tech companies locating there. Most recently a startup from a dozen years ago here Isilon was purchased by EMC and relocated to Pioneer Square and they are growing like crazy. And that's something that they probably wouldn't have done or wouldn't have been able to do without the mayor is work in getting broadband to that neighborhood. So it's really important to Seattle that we have this sort of capability available in parts of the city that we are trying to bootstrap up.
That's a good example. And I think Ed, you are absolutely correct. And what we did in Pioneer Square was basically -- we create legislation too and the legislation isn't the important part of it, but basically an essence we have got permission to lease our excess conduit in that area. And because it is a historic area it's very expensive to build down there, which keeps a lot of providers out and so by making this available, Comcast took us up on it and an additional 50 business has had better access than they had had before. So you know we keep poking at it and that was the ability to lease access conduit now. We have the ability to lease excess fiber. You know we try to just keep moving forward in any way whether we can.
You know and before that happened I was with the mayor at an event when Facebook announced that they were going to open an office in Seattle and I just deeply remember our mayor McGinn pulling the folks from Facebook side and trying to get them to locate in Pioneer Square. And they smiled politely but it was an uh-uh and that has changed now. Alright. So the mayor created the tool that allowed him to work with people to revitalize that part of town.
Okay, then I can definitely see that. There are plenty of stories like that popping up now as newer networks come into place and community networks get off the ground and so forth. Now at one point one of you mentioned medical healthcare-related benefits. Let's talk about those first for a second. What kinds of changes do you see the network producing in the healthcare ground? Erin, do you want to mention that?
Well, I can speak of what Gigabit Squared had worked on over in Cleveland and what they did there is that they took fiber connections to assisted living homes. And looked at how -- what kind of applications could we develop so that you know instead of an elderly person needing to get a taxi and going to their healthcare provider, how could they have -- how could they telecommute with their doctor? How could they send their records back and forth? How could they do things without having to leave the building? And that's one example that Gigabit Squared has actually been involved with in terms of creating some really special applications that if you have infrastructure built, allow them -- allow healthcare providers to provide healthcare in a different way and in a less expensive way than they have in the past. And I am sure and you can speak to you know, a myriad of these things at University of Washington is doing.
You know UW has telemedicine clinics all over a five-state region. We are the tertiary care facility and provide medical residents through Montana and Idaho and Wyoming, Alaska as well as the state of Washington. And you know you need those same telemedicine capabilities in King County and in the city of Seattle in certain cases, right? We have a far flown regional clinic network and in many cases those have been provisioned by fiber that we ourselves have acquired over a period of many years but our ability to deploy clinics in other neighborhoods and areas is sometimes limited by the availability of broadband. Additionally though, there are things for example that I eluded to earlier related to the live at home capabilities of individuals. If you have an ageing parent in some other part of the city or some other city, you would like to have a far more continuous far higher bandwidth, far more ubiquitous in the home interaction with them than you have today. You would like to know what's going on. You would like to have perhaps a video connection -- secured video connections to every room in their house. This is entirely practical module the access to the telecommunications.
By the way, there are other things that will happen. This is not a broadband example but a question I often asked is how come your automobile is so much better instrumented than your body, right? If you have an automobile purchased in the past 10 years, you bring it into the dealership and they jack a computer under the dash or under hood and read out the last six months of performance data and ideally identify the problem and fix it and when you going to see your physician she basically says where does it hurt? And you know this is going to change, right? So the availability of this sort of personal data is going to change our health and change the way we approach maintaining our health and again that data does no good if it just sits on the device or probably sits in your home PC. It needs to get to your primary care physician.
If they going to get, just pass all the regulation, then there we will probably know how to work something out there in that regard.
You know a lot of things are going to have to change. Again, this is a computing story and not a bandwidth story but you know, we are moving towards a generation of specialized drugs. Today we produced large quantities of a small number of drugs and in the future we are going to do this genotype, genotype correlation and we are going to producing small quantities of large numbers of drugs that are tailored to individuals and that's going to cause dramatic changes in the drug approval process for example. Right? So bunch of stuff has to change and will change and the results are going to be better health and really bringing us together in all sorts of ways.
Oh, we have got about let's see about 8 minutes left. Let's talk about education for a second. The hits of a new and exciting education and applications and a whole lot of this initial process.
Again, there are lots of examples we could give, but I think something that's on everybody's minds these days is these things called MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) and all of us are doing it. The University of Washington was the first university to actually announced that they are going grant a credit a degree through entirely online courses like you know there were a lot of details or TBD but its pretty exciting and I think the -- you know we are a public university in the state of Washington and this fits perfectly with our mission. Our goal is not to be educating people all over the world, our goal is to be educating citizens of the state of Washington, who lead access to more education then they currently have and there is no physical place to put them, right? So now the question is how do you do that? And you know there are aspects of this that can be online without interaction but for example the way these MOOC really work is of what is called semi-synchronous. People start the course at the same time and assignments will do at the same time and the result is that groups of students, subsets of these hundreds of thousands of students in a particular course can support one another. Okay, its pure support. And now the question is what's the best way to provide that pure support? Is it text chat rooms? Right? Or can you utilize higher bandwidth in a way that creates something that's much more like the sort of tutoring that we are used to and that we know to be effective. So you know, you can imagine that of course lots of education could be done with modest bandwidth but you can also imagine that if you could make it far better by creating distributed groups of people who are actively collaborating with one another as if they were at the same place.
It's done where...
I think these opportunities are incredible.
This might be our last question. Yesterday, our show talked about using broadband to improve government operations. Is there a component of that in this initial project? Whether you're testing, the way we are testing ways in which to make the delivery of government services better or faster and more efficient, what have you?
Well you know, it's a great question and I think that right now our focus has been attracting private sector to the city and trying to get this off the ground, so to be honest with you, we haven't had these discussions yet. But certainly as we try to move forward with our data.seattle.gov and ways for people to use our data and our mobile applications, we certainly will be having conversations to look at what we can do and what makes sense for us. But to be honest with you this is a pretty big step to get over here over the last couple of months. So we are not quite there yet.
Right. I think what you will find is that in the first days of the year, you got to find, need a special czar just to handle ideas. Because one of the things I have found, you know, that one thing never works to explain and someone says that they can do that, we can one do just this niche. And then it has this major exponential like increase and in fact in Oklahoma City and in Chattanooga, you know you had to stop at one point and create a process for managing ideas because the ideas flow was just getting totally off the chain. And so they said okay, we will need a process, made a process to highway, prioritize and aside. Because otherwise we will always need to be chasing our tails or we will have people you know in the communities that will be frustrated because they are bringing in new ideas and so forth. And it's just -- and it's a private and it surprises me and I have found this to be the case in the private sector which is why I didn't move before to work this whole this community broadband stuff with. When you introduce some new technology, there is usually one or two focuses that people have and then the second then starts to like proliferate within the organization or in your case within the community. Then the ideas just start to pop and then people you know start talking to each, they then start to multiply and organizations have the embarrassment of riches or being trapped under the lane of the flood of ideas because they weren't really ready for all that coming in the door. So I warn you now that you will get a plethora of ideas. I mean you know, look at Kansas City, I mean this is all they can do, just keep up with that, just that one aspect of it, so I think that's going to be good. You know we are kind of wind down.
So Craig, this is a really important point. And I just you know want to emphasize the fact that you need the capability in order to inspire people to have the ideas, right? And a part of what the capability does is to democratize the number of people who are capable of having these inspirations. You know, universities play an important role, young people are inherently inventive. Facebook is out of a university. Google is out of a university. These things we use all the time and that speaks to the role of universities, but it also speaks to the importance of enabling innovative creative people everywhere to contribute and ubiquitous broadband not only turns everyone into a consumer of ideas and services but it turns everyone into a potential producer and innovator of ideas and services. And so the goal here to create an ecosystem in which all sorts of people are coming up with ideas and as always 90% of them are going to be losers but if a few percent of them are the next Facebook and the next Google, then we have really done something special. One of the things I wanted to mention is we have talked a lot about the role of Mayor McGinn has played and it has been really important. I just want to say hats off to Erin and Stan Wu and their predecessor Bill Schreier and the cities broadband office Blair Levin we have talked about, you know after doing the broadband plan at the FCC, he established this Gig.U initiative specifically to run around the country like a pied piper and try and bring universities and their cities and telecommunications providers together. And finally the University of Washington, Mike Young the President and Kelli Trosvig who runs our information technology organization have just been great partners and have worked incredibly hard to help bring this about.
Great. And with that we are going to have to wrap up. Thank you our guests Ed and Erin and also thank our audience for being here. I hope this will _59:54_ next. Have a great day!
Good to talk to you. Have a good day
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