Topics covered included: an update on municipal broadband from Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller; a discussion on the Century Link and Wave franchise with Tony Perez; a report on Cable and Broadband Committee from Sarah Trowbridge; a Privacy Committee update from Beryl Fernandes; a report on E-Gov from Joneil Sampana, announcement about the Americans with Disabilities Act Anniversary event July 22, and Broadband Service Speed Mapping Project information, FCC Chairman coming.
This meeting was held: June 9, 2015; 6:00-8:00, Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2750
Podcasts available at: http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/CTTAB/podcast/cttab.xml
Board Members: Nourisha Wells, Beryl Fernandes, Joneil Sampana, Karia Wong, Amy Hirotaka, Ben Krokower, Carmen Rahm, Dana Lewis, Sarah Trowbridge
Public: Daniel Stiefel, Dorene Cornwell, Henok Kidane, Ann Summy, Lloyd Douglas, Alan Yeung (Adaptancy), Dashiell Milliman-Jarvis, Kevin O’Boyle, Greta Hotopp (by phone), Allison Chambers, David M. Jones (City of Bellevue), Kevin Volkman (A.R.T.), Luke Swart (Code for Seattle), Doreen Cornwell. Margaret Nicosia, John Tigue (MLab)
Staff: Michael Mattmiller, Kendee Yamaguchi, Tony Perez, David Keyes, Brenda Tate, Alice Lawson, Derrick Hall, Cass Magnuski
33 In Attendance
Meeting was called to order by Nourisha Wells.
Minutes approved with four abstentions.
Kevin O’Boyle: I’m interested in the whole fiber broadband effort. I had a chance to read the report that came out today–not all of it–and my comment/request would be that since it appears the Condo Internet subsidiary, Wave, is the only entity out there that is offering fiber to the home gigabit service at that price that’s around $75 a month. We should invite them to come in and find out what the City can do to encourage them to expand beyond their pilot in Eastlake.
Beryl Fernandes: My recollection is that they did come in and brief us last year, but there’s no harm in having them come in now that they have a few more competitors in the market.
Alan Yeung: I felt the price the City named is kind of high. If we’re trying to get that kind of penetration to be profitable or at least break even, I think that’s a bit high for just Internet service. I currently pay about half that and I’m a working professional. Government could drive a technology option, like we see on the federal side. At the same time, things in the private sector run more efficiently and costs less. The study, I think it was great–there was that motion when Tina (Podlowski) came in last time. The study seemed to show that it’s kind of a risky venture for Seattle.
Nourisha Wells: Any other comments? No? Okay, we will move forward. There are copies of the agenda printed out up front. Now we’re going to hear from Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller.
Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller Update
Michael Mattmiller: Good evening. As everyone know, nothing has gone on in the City today. (laughs) This morning, we did post the Municipal Broadband Study. This is a study that we commissioned in December as part of the Mayor’s broadband strategy. Going back to that strategy and that vision, we want to make sure that in the City of Seattle, the public has access to equal, affordable, competitive broadband options that approach rapidly evolving gigabit standards. We had three primary strategies to achieve that outcome. The first, reducing regulatory barriers; the second, public/private partnerships that can leverage the City-owned fiber network; and the third is if, and only if, those first two aren’t successful–understanding our ability to be a municipal broadband provider.
Before giving the highlights of the report, one thing I want to stress is that based on the results of the study, we don’t see a rate-payer-only funded model to be financially an option at this time. That’s not to say that we don’t see municipal broadband as something that we still need to understand in our ability to jump in and provide. It’s this particular model, that’s rate-payer-funded only, that presents real financial risks to the City.
The report said that municipal broadband would cost between $480 million to $660 million, and would include cost of borrowing to construct. I read a couple of the comments on online sites, and they say, “Gee, how could we trust the City with that big of a disparity?” There’s one variable in there that’s causing that cost difference and that’s the ability of us to construct fiber optic lines in what is called the Electrical Space Utility poles. So, if you look at a utility pole (draws on white board), City Light controls what we call the electrical space of the pole, where you’ve got power wires going across. Down below that space, you have what is called the Communications Space. That’s where companies like Comcast, Century Link, Wave, and other providers are attaching their cables and their wires. If we were able to build in the electrical space, we would actually save money, because this space is very clean, very tightly regulated, and there’s not a whole lot of space up there because of electrical wires. If you go to the communications space, the reality is that it looks like this (draws a tangle of wires). And what happens is that before we can go out and build in that space, we would have to work with City Light to go out and make sure that the space complies with engineering standards and other types of standards before we could start stringing fiber, and that’s what really increases costs.
So, the study found $480 million to $660 million. We also did a marketing analysis and what that showed is that the most likely price point to get the service operational would be about $75 for gigabit broadband service. By comparison, Wave and Condo Internet charges about $80 for gigabit service. And for us to be successful at operating this utility as a rate-payer-funded utility, we would have to have a 43 percent take-rate. That’s 43 percent of single family homes in Seattle–we looked at multi-dwelling units a little bit differently because of the challenges in wiring up those buildings–but 43 percent is not an insignificant number. The City of Chattanooga, Tennessee, with their municipal utility, has about a 33 percent take-rate, based on their last annual report. So, to be successful, we would have to be significantly more successful than Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’d love to say that we can do that, but that’s a pretty big lift.
To put some context in the other direction around that take-rate, Comcast, as a cable television provider, with their monopoly status in most of the City, we’d have to be almost as successful as they are within a few years. If we cannot do that, because we cannot operate this as a rate-payer utility, we have to assume the risk of failure in our City’s general fund–the part of City government finances that pays for the police department, the fire department, all those government services that keep us safe and protected. And that’s where the risk at this point would not allow us to proceed with this model.
Again, that’s not to say that this changes our perspective on municipal broadband as an approach to provide equal, competitive gigabit broadband services to the City. It’s just this particular model cannot proceed at this time.
So what does that mean? One, we’re looking at funding options. State and federal grants. We’re trying to understand what’s available now. We heard the President say in the State of the Union address that they are looking at additional grant programs. We want to understand those programs and see what might apply to Seattle. Now, I don’t want to get everyone’s hopes up, because we have heard that those grants are likely to be targeted towards rural communities, but we do believe that there is a need within urban areas as the economic engines of our economy and our country to have access to those grants, as well. If we are able to see a funding option from a state or federal source, we would come back and reconsider the particular model described in the report today.
We also want to look at other models. If you look across the country right now, broadband is just an incredibly fast moving industry. Based upon the rapidly evolving nature of over the top services, like Sling TV–and it goes all the way to rumors that Apple is going to be coming out with an over the top product–there is a number of different players coming into the broadband space. As part of that, we see cities entering into some very interesting relationships. Joint ventures. So cities like Westminster, Maryland, where the city has partnered with a company that has experience with broadband utilities, can offer some scale. They’ve entered into a model that protects the city’s risk. This commercial entity will guarantee payments to the city to cover bond payments while the company is assuming the risk of going out and signing up subscribers. So the city gets their policy objectives met. The third party company that has some experience doing this can be more likely to be successful. And consumers get competition and gig access.
So, lots of models out there. We’re going to understand what models might work for the City. Part of that is working with Next Century Cities, the organization that I mentioned In January. That’s a network of cities that are all working through this issue and coming up with some very innovative ideas.
So, that’s where we are today. I’ll stop now for questions.
Ben Krokower: Can you explain the property tax option?
Michael Mattmiller: With the model I just discussed, the risk is to the City’s general fund. If the City were to build out this utility, and try to operate it–if we were unable to break even, the losses would be offset by the City’s general fund. Another way to approach it could be property tax-backed bonds. What that means is that the City would put a measure on the ballot and 60 percent of the voters would have to approve it. That would then fund the capital construction of the broadband network. And there’s a model in the report that says that would work. It’s interesting. We could potentially offer service at a lower cost–I think $45 per month. We’d still have to have very high take-rates. And the issue, then, would be that the risk would be around the operation. So the general fund would still be on the hook to make sure that we can raise the $40 million a year in operating expenses, plus replenishing the reserves for capital expenses to rebuild the network and equipment over time. So that diminishes the risk of the capital, but we still very much have the risk of the operation. So let’s say that competitive forces, Comcast, undercuts us on the price or various things happen, and we can’t get the subscribers necessary and are losing millions of dollar, the general fund is at risk and so we shut down the network. Now the risk has been shifted to the property owners. So they are now paying for 20 years an annual amount of money for a network that’s not functioning. That’s the downside.
Sarah Trowbridge: How is it determined if the City can go to the electrical space?
Michael Mattmiller: We’ve been working with Seattle City Light. And my experience within the City especially when it comes to broadband, they’ve been a great partner. They’ve been at the table. They’ve been working with us for CTC. We’ve had several conversations about how operationally we could build within that electrical space. The challenge come with the legal side of things. We don’t own poles outright in the City. In many places, we co-own poles with Century Link. So the concern is two-fold. One is the City working with the City–if City Light were to say yes, City of Seattle, you can build within the electrical space, does that mean we’d have to offer the opportunity to others? Would there have to be a competitive process? Or would there be some type of dilution of the cost savings? Because if we start building there and five other companies start building there, now you have the same make-ready issues that you’ve got in the communications space. The other side that we have to understand more is what Century Link’s response might be or what their ability to object would be.
Dashiell Milliman-Jarvis: I only had a brief chance to look at the report, but I think it said “at $75,” which was what the proposed number was, where you would need a 45 percent take-rate, “something like 45 percent would be very interested”, according to polling numbers. I was a little bit confused, because they had shifted down from 55 percent, and then the interest bumped up to something like 79 percent. A vast majority of the City was looking very interested in having broadband services. I was just wondering if you could summarize how it came to that exact number?
Michael Mattmiller: Sure. I’ll do it at a high level, and Tony Perez is here to answer additional questions. In the report, you’ll see that there are several different ‘what if’ analyses that are performed. Forty-three percent at $75 per month, or let’s say that we realize that we didn’t have more revenue, so we raise the cost to $85 per month. or we discount the cost–those types of things. Through the market analysis, what they tried to is what is that optimal point where we can capture the most subscribers and maximize take-rate to get the revenue we need to make this work from a cash flow perspective. So that’s how they landed on $75 and a required take-rate of 43 percent. In several of the charts, they look at and say, well, what would your interest be if we dropped the cost to $25? Yes, we could sign up a lot more people, but we can’t cover our costs. We’d be operating in the red and wouldn’t be successful. You can see in the indices and several different tables, the different combinations at this price, how many people would we expect to subscribe, and what does that do for the bottom line when we think about the costs we would incur.
Dashiell Milliman-Jarvis: I was looking at the initial polling and I just didn’t see how that matched up. One of the initial polls was at $55, which was lower than what Century Link is asking. That seemed like a pretty low rate, compared to a commercial entity is offering.
Michael Mattmiller: I think we have to keep in mind the incremental costs as we add subscribers. What the incremental costs would be paying for is to send fiber up and down the streets of Seattle. After we have signed you up as a customer, we still have to go and string the fiber from the wire on the poles to your house. So that’s the staff time as the cost of doing that. We’re going to have to put electronics in your house. There’s the cost of that device. Even though we’re getting greater volume, we’re also increasing costs to do that build-out. When you look at the table for the $55 option, or $65–I forget which one it is–what you’ll see is, yes, we would have more subscribers, but because the costs have gone up, we’re still in the red. Also, I think it’s great that people expressed an interest at 80 percent if we charged $55, or whatever the numbers are, but if we realistically think about that, that means eight out of every 10 people in the City of Seattle would be signing up for this service. That would be spectacular. I don’t know of anywhere in the country that has seen that kind of response to a new broadband utility.
Dashiell Milliman-Jarvis: Yes. The way I was looking at it was, assuming you could do that, the costs certainly are higher for the installation, but those are upfront costs that generally get paid off over the long term. They’re like anything else in economics. You have some costs and you pay that off, as long as you’re making more than what your cost is to provide the service for the long term.
Michael Mattmiller: I think Tony Perez can provide more detail. You’re right. It’s over time. But can we actually survive over time after the initial outlay?
Tony Perez: We can discuss that at the Broadband Committee.
Beryl Fernandes: My question is sort of related. It has to do with the escalation rate, where they have a built in escalation rate. When Chris Mitchell was here last year, and he was presenting various case studies, I asked him about that. Whether they had built in an escalation rate, and he didn’t know at that time. So my question to you is whether any of the studies address that. And I think it’s particularly important here at the City because Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), for example, has the second highest water rate in the country. And so we don’t want to see that happen. And it’s quite possible to build it into the design at the front end. Very hard to come back and retrofit.
Michael Mattmiller: That is a great point, and I don’t know the answer.
Sarah Trowbridge: Are there any next steps related to this report? Any public input sessions?
Michael Mattmiller: From the City’s perspective, we’ve put out info so that the public can read it, and I know that Upgrade Seattle is going to be having a number of events, which we will be listening for that input that is generated. From our side, we will be going back and looking at the state and federal funding opportunities, try to understand what other models or joint venture options might be available, as well as continuing to work with our partners in Next Century Cities to see what is happening around the country.
I should also point out that there is one more thing going on, which we’ve talked a little bit about, which is the Digital Equity Initiative. We have brought together this great group of stakeholders from industry, nonprofits, from the community to help frame up what goals do we need to have to make sure that we drive Internet access and technical literacy across the City. David Keyes can speak more to that, but I know that we’re getting very close in terms of goals and initial strategies for that effort.
Kevin O’Boyle: My question is if the City approved a property tax bond, and Comcast and Century Link responded by cutting rates by say, $20 or $25 a month, then everybody kind of wins, even if nobody uses the City’s network.
Michael Mattmiller: And that’s a good point, but if property owners approve a tax on their house–so let’s say, up to $120 to $150 a year, and then Comcast cuts rates by $10 a month, you’re still paying the same thing. It’s just a matter of what part of your checkbook it’s coming out of, so there are some interesting outcomes that could appear, but at the end of the day, we’d still have to raise the $460 to $660 million.
I apologize, but I need to run. Tony Perez and Alice Lawson are here to answer additional questions. Sarah, I’m sure, will be talking more about the report. So, I do thank you for the time. I wish costs would come down more, but the report at least gives us some perspective on what the market can bear now. Thanks.
Nourisha Wells: Thank you. Okay! Tony Perez!
Century Link and Wave Franchise Update
Tony Perez: We forwarded legislation to City Council about two weeks ago for their consideration of a franchise for Century Link to provide cable services. Under federal and state law, Century Link can deploy facilities on the City’s rights of way that are capable of providing data, voice service, and even cable services. However, before they can actually provide cable services to residents, they need the City’s authority in the form of franchise granted via ordinance by the Seattle City Council. The reason why Century Link wants to provide cable service, even though it’s a lower margin product than Internet or voice service, is they feel they can capture more market share by providing a bundled suite of voice, video, and data services.
(I also wanted to tell you that on the broadband report–I’m intimately familiar with it for over the last seven months, so if we want to have a more in-depth discussion at the next Broadband Cable meeting, I’d be happy to do that.)
Again, we received the application on the 28th. I’m not going to read all of this. On the third bullet, there, Century Link is in the process of building out fiber to the home in Seattle, over which they will offer gigabit symmetrical service over what is called a GPON passive optical network fiber to the home. They’re up to 66,500 homes now that are passed with fiber to the home. They expect to exceed 100,000 homes by the end of 2015. Here are some of the neighborhoods where they have been building it out. If it’s not up there yet on the Mayor’s broadband site, we’ll be posting it. It provides a general indication of where fiber to the home and where Prism–Prism is the name of Century Link’s cable TV product–where that will be.
I want to talk a little bit more about the network. Next slide. They’re going to offer Prism cable service over two different networks. So everyone in the 100,000 homes who have access to fiber to the home technology will be able to get Prism. However, those who get what is called ADDSL2 service–some of us are familiar here–which is a fiber to the node technology where the fiber just runs to aggregated cabinets in the neighborhood, but the network leverages the existing telephone twisted pair copper wire in your home. Typically, if you’re close right now to the central office or to that aggregated cabinet, you can get about 40 mbps. But beta transmissions over a copper network are subject to signal loss. It’s called attenuation. So the farther away your residence is from that aggregator box, the slower your speeds. If you’re beyond 4,000 feet, measured by wire, not as the crow flies, you’re likely not going to be able to get Prism service. And that’s because in order for them to provide Prism, they need a minimum of 25 mbps. So beyond about 4,000 feet, you’re just not getting those speeds. When you think about it–25 mbps–maybe you’re watching one channel and downloading from another–two channels, recording on one and someone surfing on the web–well, you need a certain minimum to be able to provide that. We can talk more about that if you have questions.
One of the biggest benefits, of course, that we’ll have substantial competition in cable services in Seattle for the first time. We’ve had some overlap between Wave and Comcast, but Century Link is a fairly highly capitalized company, and starting out with 100,000 or more households with access to cable competition I think is a really good thing. We’ll talk more about public benefits in a minute, but their technology is a little different than what is offered by the cable companies. Cable companies provide what are called QAM channels, each six megahertz slot compression scheme provide 38.8 megabits per second and so they divide their spectrum into those slots. But with cable HFC network, all of the channels are delivered at the same time over the big fat pipe. They’re delivered to your set top box, and you tune them at your set top box. Century Link’s network, because of the frequency of that copper wire, is going to have much less carrying capacity in the fat coaxial pipe. So what switch video does is when you order up a channel, it’s switched at the head end, which is located in Bellevue. And only that channel goes to that channel or channels that you’ve asked for. So it’s switched at the head end, as opposed to the channel coming to your set top box. But the functionality is the same. You get beautiful HD and digital transmissions.
They will have complementary service, like Comcast and Wave, to City buildings and schools, discounted pricing for low-income households, and we’re working on some side agreements to provide benefits to some nonprofits in Seattle, similar to what Comcast has and Wave has, but not at that level because they don’t have any customers yet.
I want to talk a little bit about the separate authority to employ the facilities of rights of way. I also want to talk about the effects of FCC 621 Order. Anybody here familiar with that? This order was released in 2007 and since then there have been two other commentaries from the FCC. The most recent one was in January of this year. And, basically, what the 621 Order says is that the FCC realizes that it was done at the behest of the phone companies, who want to get in and compete with cable companies. The 621 Order is saying that it makes it harder for us to negotiate for benefits; it makes it harder to say you have to do all the things that Comcast did. It really undercuts some of our leverage in negotiation. For example, the order that was clarified in January of this year said that a company could deduct from the franchise fees it pays to the City, the cost of providing cable to City schools and buildings or some of the public benefits that we get to provide services to nonprofits. Before, that never happened. That was just something that they did willingly. But the 621 Order made clear that we have to be careful of what we ask for, and we can’t require those things. We can negotiate them, and I’m happy to say that we did negotiate with Century Link that they would not deduct from franchise fees the cost of providing many public benefits as they seek a franchise.
And finally, it’s a very different time now in the market place–a very dynamic and competitive environment with the presence of over-the-top alternatives to traditional cable services. You have Netflix, Amazon, Sling TV, HBO, Showtime is now going ala carte–over-the-top. Apple will be coming out with its own channel line up fairly soon. So those are some interesting developments. And we’ll talk at the next meeting about some of the challenges that presents for the City’s PEG channels, for the City’s regulatory authority, and ultimately our franchise fees and taxes.
Next slide. Some of the benefits and the terms of the franchise. I already mentioned about some of these. Lots of financial support for PEG franchise fees — that’s Comcast and Wave. All of the City’s PEG channels will now be in HD. More importantly, they’ve agreed to provide for our PEG channels–the Seattle Channel, the University of Washington channel, public schools, public not for profit channels that provide local programming. They will all be available not just in HD but any comparable successive format, as in 4K, Ultra HD, and so forth. So we’re really happy that they agreed to provide that.
Next slide. We’ll bypass Privacy and Customer Bill of Rights. There is a number of reports that we’ll be getting from Century Link and others about their gross revenues and payments. One of the things we tightened up was one of our regulations in our cable code. We have too many people that complained to us that it took too long when you called your cable operator to get a live body to answer your call. We’re really cracking down on that with the cable operators. And there will be hefty fines for those that can’t comply.
Working with the Council provides some new regulations in the cable code that’s going to require the companies to meet with us every six months–at least semi-annually–to ensure that a significant portion of the areas where they provide service are areas of the City that are below median income. So, we’ll be getting those reports, reviewing them, there will be penalties attached if they don’t comply. There will also probably get an invitation from the City Council to come and explain why they can’t meet the City’s low income requirements.
So, with that, we have seven minutes for questions.
Karia Wong: What is the process for negotiation? The reason why I’m asking is that Seattle is a very diverse City. There are people who speak many languages other than English. So I’m wondering if it is too late to ask to incorporate other language channels.
Tony Perez: There is a very extensive channel lineup, so remind me. We’ll be sending Council a report hopefully later this week or early next week which details all the channels that are going to be available.
One thing I didn’t mention–that was the last slide–about the schedule for public hearings. Some of you were appointed by Council. The Mayor has transmitted the legislation to the Council side. That’s where the action is, so some of you who have been appointed by Council want to get involved in this public hearing process, now is a good time to do that. There will be two public hearings, one on the 17th and one on July 1 with the full Council. Both of those are opportunities for the public to comment on the terms of the franchise, benefits, prices, whatever it is people want to say.
Karia Wong: The other question is, if they want to provide more service, are they going to improve their customer service? The reason I’m asking is we spend a lot of times just calling customer service. That’s one thing. The other thing is language support. The just don’t have the capacity.
Tony Perez: I’m not sure about the language support, but the time it takes to answer a call–we’ve addressed that and there will be significant penalties for companies that don’t meet that standard.
Ben Krokower: To follow up on the customer service question, there have been reports of slightly deceptive–I wouldn’t call them predatory–marketing practices with their customer reps not distinguishing between fiber to the premise and fiber to the node. Is there going to be any kind of oversight?
Tony Perez: Yes! We hope those people will call our office. We can put a stop to that quickly, now that they are regulated. It’s a cable system now, so to the extent that we have oversight over the services provided over their network, we can enforce. We’ve read the articles.
Dashiell Milliman-Jarvis: I know you skipped over bullet points in the interest of time. Is this going to be on the Seattle Cable Office web site.
Tony Perez: Yes, we can put it there. Or I can just send it to CTAB.
Margie Nicosia: Just a comment. I have received an email from Comcast, and it seems like one of their approaches to get to closer customer service is to try to jump onto Next Door. I don’t know if anyone else is a member of Next Door. That’s a community based web site for people to share. And they’re going to use that vehicle to reach out and try to make that local presence felt. I took a poll like everyone in my area and they all said no. I don’t know if you have input. They are not approving business and selling in that type of environment. Because people aren’t looking for that kind of stuff there.
Tony Perez: No, I hadn’t heard that.
Dan Stiefel: We used to be able to call Comcast and get local support, but this last year, coming into negotiations, they just routed everything to Manila. And if you had a serious problem, Manila didn’t have the tools to solve it. It was very difficult to get transferred back to the U.S. What is to keep Century Link from gaming the system like that?
Tony Perez: Well, we hope that the standards that we’ve developed in our Cable Customer Bill of Rights will deal with that. It’s not so much the penalties involved, it provides some incentive. Although these are big companies, but it’s more, I think, the political shaming that we can bring to bear on them for not meeting those standards. And our standards are going to be that 80 percent of the time you call, at a minimum, that once you indicate your preference to speak to a live person, that that connection will be made within 30 seconds.
Dan Stiefel: But if it’s somebody that can’t really solve your problems, what is the advantage of that?
Tony Perez: There should be someone to solve your problems.
Dan Stiefel: There hasn’t been with Comcast for a good part of the last year.
Tony Perez: We know it’s an issue, so we’ve developed standards. With that 80 percent standard, I think it’s about $1,700 right now. So that could add up pretty quickly. And that’s per month.
Joneil Sampana: That’s your last question.
Dan Stiefel: Twenty five megabits. I think there’s something that says that if the copper wire is incapable of supporting 25 megabits, then Century Link is not obligated to provide this upgraded service, ADSL. Is that correct?
Tony Perez: Yes. In this particular franchise agreement, there is not a city-wide build out requirement. A policy decision was made that, if we required city-wide build out, Century Link said ‘we’re not coming to Seattle.’ So, the question was is some competition better than none. Let’s give these guys an opportunity to come in.
Dan Stiefel: Doesn’t that give them an opportunity to cherry-pick?
Tony Perez: They can’t cherry-pick because we have requirements in the code and we’ll meet semi-annually to ensure that…
Dan Stiefel: But 25 megabits, where the bad wiring is in all the poorer districts.
Tony Perez: Not necessarily. When you see the maps, actually it’s not quite like that. Trust me. You’ll get to see the map. They’re really adding the fiber where it’s most economical for them to do it. And sometimes, that’s the function of density more than anything else.
Beryl Fernandes: I want to follow up on an earlier comment. I care very much about the quality of the response I get. I don’t care which country it’s coming from. And so what I’ve learned to do with Comcast is to say that I want Level Two technical support. So that cuts right through it. And quite honestly, when I get Level Two, I don’t care which country it’s coming from, it’s always high quality. It is responsive, and that’s all I care about.
Nourisha Wells: We’re actually scheduled to have a break now, so we’ll break for ten minutes.
Break for 10 Minutes
Nourisha Wells: Just a reminder: If you do have a comment, be sure to say your name for the public record.
David Keyes: And if you haven’t yet, please sign in. There’s a sheet.
Nourisha Wells: Okay, we are coming back from our break and David Keyes is going to do a little recruiting for something.
David Keyes: I just want to mention that the City is in the process of starting to redesign the Seattle.gov web site. That’s not going to happen overnight. We’ve been doing that concurrently as we have also been implementing the content management system. We still have a lot to do with that. We started the redesign process and the web team would love to have some testers. As we do initial frameworks and so forth. So, the web team just put a little sign up on Survey Monkey (Link is https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3P8B2MQ) . I’ll send this out. I just got it an hour ago or so. You can copy it down here, and we’ll send it out. I also want to encourage you to — because we want a diversity of testers — pass that along. It’s an interesting opportunity to see that in process as we’re thinking and looking at different ideas.
Nourisha Wells: Thank you! Sarah, are you ready?
Sarah Trowbridge: I’m ready.
Cable and Broadband Committee Update
Sarah Trowbridge: I ended up cancelling the last meeting, in part because I was recovering from jet lag, but also because I felt there were lots of projects that we were focusing on. We’re kind of in a holding pattern. We were waiting for the feasibility report on municipal broadband. We were waiting for updates on the cable franchise negotiations, which we got briefed today on by Tony Perez. And then also updates for the Comp Plan. So I’m still a little unclear whether there is a draft version of the Comp Plan publicly available at this point. I know that EIS made something available…
David Keyes: There is not a posted draft version of the Comp Plan. I think they’re releasing it late this month. I do also have some copies I’ll hand around. I don’t have enough for everybody. I can get more, but there are two documents I got from the Department of Planning and Development. One is just an overview, just a brief glossy on the environmental impact statement. And another is this equity analysis that was done. So, I’ll pass these around and get more to you.
Sarah Trowbridge: Great. So at our upcoming meeting, we will be looking at the feasibility study and having a discussion around that. And over the listserv, I’d like to discuss opportunities for participating in the public hearings for the Century Link cable franchise negotiation. That’s coming up pretty quick. The next public hearing, I think, is on June 18, and the next on July 1. So as a committee, we talked about being involved with the public input process and now that we have these dates scheduled, I’m open to how we’re going to be involved with that.
Beyond that, once the Comp Plan is fully available, reviewing that and seeing if there are any opportunities with regards to technology at large, or municipal broadband.
At the last meeting, Dan gave an overview about the meeting with Wave. I just wanted to check in to see if there are any questions about that. I’d like to give you more information about the low income Internet rollout from Wave in the meeting that happened between Wave, Solid Ground, and the City.
So essentially, we had a great meeting with Wave. They are very interested in having low income Internet comparable to Comcast Internet Essentials and Century Link Internet Basics. So, we were discussing some of the challenges and obstacles low income Internet programs present. Connect Up, which is the Solid Ground Internet program that connects people to resources to get access to low income Internet. Unfortunately, they are phasing out that program. They were invaluable in terms of giving information on what makes a good low income Internet program, and some of the low income eligibility requirements that will make it more accessible for people. So the next step is that Wave is very interested in learning about how to connect people with hardware, such as routers and modems, so I’m going to be facilitating a meeting between Wave and Interconnection, which provides discount hardware, including laptops. So that’s a little status update.
We’ll have more once we meet at the end of this month. It’s going to be Monday, the last Monday of this month. Monday, June 29, 6:30 p.m. at O’Asian Restaurant. I encourage CTAB members and any community members that are interested in cable and broadband issues to join us. Feel free to join the listserv, as well. It’s on the CTAB web site. Any questions?
Actually, I do have one other update. Nourisha, maybe you’ll speak to this, but early in the month, Sabrina, who is from Upgrade Seattle and Brown Paper Tickets, reached out with an exciting opportunity. Sometime in mid-July, she’ll be meeting with other community representatives and the FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. He wants to meet with municipal broadband advocates and learn more about the process that’s happening in Seattle. Nourisha has volunteered to represent CTAB. If you want to give a little update about what the status is on that?
Nourisha Wells: Sounds like he wants to get ideas on what cities are doing. I don’t know if anyone saw his statement that came out last week or the week before. It was written up in the New York Times. That’s where I saw it. He wanted to meet with the Seattle community because of the work done from both the City’s perspective and the grassroots perspective. Looking at municipal broadband and the rollout and what that would look like here. They’re actually looking for companies or organizations that would represent….
Sarah Trowbridge: Yes, I think they would like a diverse group of people to be at the table. There are six to eight spots to join the conversation with Chairman Tom Wheeler, but one of those spots, maybe a couple, would be for local small businesses that are having Internet connectivity issues. So, if you have any familiarity with that as a business, just email Nourisha.
Nourisha Wells: So, it’s going to be mid-July. That’s all the information that we have at this point.
Sarah Trowbridge: From the CTAB perspective, what perspective are you going to bring to that?
Nourisha Wells: I’m presenting what we’ve done, what the Broadband Committee has done. And then I look to Digital Equity, part of our Digital Inclusion Committee, so I’ll be presenting the work that your committee has done.
Sarah Trowbridge: That’s my update, so you can go on to the next report.
Nourisha Wells: Okay! Beryl? Privacy?
Privacy Committee Update
Beryl Fernandes: We held our first in a series of three workshops last Tuesday, June 7. The three are scheduled for the first Tuesday of each month, June, July and August. Just to put this in perspective, it is not one of these big hack-a-thons where we’re expecting 100-250 people. We’re really looking for very small, very targeted discussion culminating in very specific recommendations. And if we get a couple that we can actually work through, we’re really happy. We’re not looking for a whole ton of them. Leading up to the workshops, we had lots of discussions. We had focus groups. We had all kinds of ways of tapping into the sentiment in the public, in the community. We were looking at three sectors: residents, small businesses, and workers. Those are just three broad categories to draw from.
This first one focused on immigrants and youth. And that’s simply because those were who we were able to have focus groups with, coming into the workshops. And they also had already developed ideas on what they would like to see. We started out with a seven-minute video, a clip that was off a panel discussion–panelists from around the country who were talking about the issue of privacy in marginalized communities. What does that mean? This panel discussion was from a conference and it was an hour and a half long. Not wanting to put anybody through an hour and a half long, we needed to have somebody edit it down. And the volunteers that we had coming into this workshop were just fabulous. We had this one volunteer who said, “Oh, my daughter can do that but my daughter’s in New York.” And her daughter in New York cut it down to seven minutes. And that just gave us a really good overview.
It was very heart-warming, just to see the spirit with which people were coming in. And I think it’s because they thought they were being heard. Anyway, we started with that, and people were very engaged. The people in the family immigrant community had ideas that they came in with. One of them held individual interviews with people in her community. She came back and reported on that.
I had a focus group with youth, and came back with that information. Plus, I had talked to a number of teachers in Seattle Public Schools, as well as some of the other schools and community centers. We had people, and I think some of them are here, from the tech community, who came in–and they had no idea what the community was going to come in with, what their needs were, what their concerns were, or what their recommendations and desires were–but they were there to listen and later to say, “Hey! We think we could do this, or this is where we could help.” And to watch that happen, that was the spirit of this collaborathon that we talked about. I thought that was great. Just a really good feeling.
It culminated with people saying, “I could possibly do this and I could possibly do that.” And that’s the start of the discussions.
We’re hoping that the people from the community will be in the driver’s seat on this, rather than a CTAB member or a techie being in the driver’s seat. We are there to facilitate and support, and say, “What resources do you need?” And bring them. These are people who are pretty well entrenched in their own communities. So they are representatives. They’re going back and talking to people there and then coming back to us as they need things. So, it’s working out that way.
I think what it did was it highlighted two issues in my mind. One was the need for diverse perspectives in privacy, and in tech in general. Without those perspectives, we are losing a whole part of our vision, really.
I think I’ve mentioned this example once before, about a hack-a-thon where somebody developed an app for health violations in restaurants. I just happened, as a member of CTAB, I was walking around, and saw that the date on it was six months earlier, and I was thinking if I was the restaurant owner, I would have cleaned up my act in a week. He or she probably did. But six months later, it could have killed that restaurant. And so the need therefore from our actions may be very harmful, but we don’t know it. We are oblivious to it because no one is bringing it to our attention. The only way somebody would is if they’re coming in with a totally different set of eyes, a different perspective. So, that’s one of the things.
And another one is, the impacted parties actually participate in the design of whatever–problem identification or program that we’re crafting–rather than have outsiders come in and design it for them. It’s bringing them into the process and saying, “Hey, let’s collaborate and do this together.” You get a very different end product and a very different process, as well. Those were the two take-aways from that, that I hope will lead to more discussion.
Everybody’s talking about diversity in the tech field. Rev. Jesse Jackson was here two or three months ago, talking about it and visiting. Everybody’s talking about it. But what does that really mean? Here it shows us exactly how it translates on the ground.
Sarah Trowbridge: What would be your next steps?
Beryl Fernandes: Well, right now there’s a lot of talk inside the community. They are talking among themselves. They are talking to me. And then we’ll figure out how to match up what they say they need and want, with the resources. And resources have already surfaced and said they’re ready and willing to help. So that’s great spirit. We know it’s there. And it’s not only with the resources who showed up at the meeting. There are lots of people out there, as well. We do have techies in the immigrant community who are willing to step up, as well.
Nourisha Wells: So, if someone wanted to participate in the next round, how would they get involved?
Beryl Fernandes: At this point, if they want to, just shoot me an email and let me know that you want to be involved.
Nourisha Wells: So, to the privacy listserv, or…?
Beryl Fernandes: Right between now and the next meeting? Things will be going on behind the scenes. If somebody has a particular set of skills and they want to bring them to the table, or they have knowledge about needs, then we would like to hear that, as well.
Nourisha Wells: For the people that might not know that their knowledge is necessary or needed, how would they figure out that this is something that they could do, be a part of or help with?
Beryl Fernandes: Then they could come to the next meeting, which is the first Tuesday of the month at the Douglass Truth Library, 6:00 – 7:45. So the first Tuesday of July, the first Tuesday of August.
Carmen Rahm: If you missed the first meeting, that’s okay? You can still come to the next one?
Beryl Fernandes: Not a problem. The other two sectors, we haven’t touched. And I’m hopeful that the next one will be small business and workers. If you have workers who can come to us with privacy issues for small businesses, we’d love to hear their stories and what they have to say.
Nourisha Wells: Any other questions? Is there anyone giving the Digital Inclusion Committee Report in Jose’s absence? There’s an email with an update. So we will skip that one for now, and hear the committee update from Joneil.
E-Gov Committee Report
Joneil Sampana: I should give an update on this weekend’s big Disco-Tech event as well as the E-Gov status report. If you haven’t known, on Saturday, from 10:00 to 4:00, we had this great event. It was about 60 to 70 person strong, despite the 85 degree weather. And it was a great event. So, essentially, it was called Disco Tech. And that stood for Discover Technology. It was a forum where we invited folks that aren’t typically hackers, but those that are interested in learning more about the civic movement here in Seattle. There were nine break-out sessions. Three of those were technically oriented. They talked one on one level programming in Node, JS, Socratum, and Tableau. What was interesting there, I actually saw our youngest attending member, at 10 years old, sitting there with a laptop just clicking away.
Then we had other topics that talked about the future of some of our organizations here in Seattle, like
Code for Seattle, which is going through rebranding and an inflection point because it’s been so strong for the last three or four years now. So that’s interesting for folks to get wind of. It’s not just hacking now. It’s going to be more open. The tagline, the name they’re going with, is now Open Seattle. So learn more about that.
Then I also had other updates in regards to Upgrade Seattle. They talked about their future plans, especially with the FCC chairman coming on board to learn about their progress. We talked about improving citizen services. And Open Data. Bruce Blood facilitated a work session on trying to distill some of the main data issues that citizens are having.
So, overall, pretty well attended. We also had a civic fair where the current projects that were our most popular projects recently, came to showcase their wares. We had Access Map, Upgrade Seattle, we had CTAB, and Hey Duwamish with Luke. So, good showing. Michael gave the keynote, and Candace Faber gave the closing. And overall, it was one more data point to add to the momentum of our civic movement.
Before I move onto the E-Gov status report, any questions about Disco Tech?
Question: I was just wondering, if there another coming up?
Joneil Sampana: Not from a national level. I think the next Open Seattle event is going to be Tuesday…?
Comment: There are several of them. We meet every Thursday. You can check out our meet up page. It’s currently Code for Seattle. Just click on meet up. http://www.meetup.com/Code-for-Seattle/ or http://codeforseattle.org .
We’re having another big event, though, called Electric Sky. It’s pretty extensive, but it’s going to be a three-day event. It’s a camping, outdoor event. You should just check out the page and see for yourself. There’s going to be WiFi there.
Nourisha Wells: Is it like a smaller version of Burning Man?
Beryl Fernandes: So are you guys changing your name?
Comment: Yes. Open Seattle. It means everybody, not just coders.
Beryl Fernandes: I like the name change.
Joneil Sampana: In that spirit, you can sense this cultural shift happening within the organization. You can see Electric Sky and there’s a lot more energy and artistic expression. For coders, that’s kind of an art form in and of itself. But this movement is open to everybody. Artists, big dreamers, thinkers–about trying to improve the Seattle citizen experience. That’s what we’re making this shift towards.
Beryl Fernandes: It ties into the diversity thing. And it says to coders and coding, look broader and be more inclusive. Because it enriches both the process and the product.
E-Gov Status Report
Joneil Sampana: Let me move onto the E-Gov Status Report. All the details from our last meeting, which is on the fourth Tuesday of every month. It’s actually listed on our CTAB web site. So feel free to look there. I just published it a couple hours before the meeting. So, I’m a little late. But it will be on there moving forward.
What I want to highlight is a couple of ongoing projects. This month, we were supposed to kick off the Seattle Police Department User Interface (SPD/UI) refresh. And, unfortunately, SPD hasn’t been able to make the APIs available to our designers. So that’s still on hold. But we’re hoping that that is going to move forward. We did get some funding for that project for our UI developer to designers, which would have done it pro bono, but in this case, there might be some resources to pay them for all their hard work.
In addition to that, we got some movement on the Civic Engagement concept that Seattle Channel came to us about a few months ago. We were lucky to have Kendee Yamaguchi and Megan attend our meeting last week. They helped walk us through a draft concept of what this next program could look like. Now, essentially what we’re trying to do is in the spirit of improving the Seattle citizens’ experience. We have a subcommittee. Within our subcommittee of E-Gov, we’re trying to think of a five program event that would happen throughout the year. We’re thinking one and a half months separated, or two months. And the goal is, to create a soulful intersection of civic minded citizens who understand the enabling power of technology but want to share the resources to collectively improve the Seattle citizen experience. If we were to aim out into the future, let’s say in August, how great would it be to get a gathering of maybe 150 or 200 folks together around the topic of convening Seattle’s top cross sector of leaders. This is just a draft concept. We’re trying to create this cross- sector, multi-sector eco system where we can all start to share all the resources that we have to bear. A month and a half later, mid-October, let’s add to that and say, Seattle’s secret sauce of multi-sector networks. We start with bringing together some really great leaders. After that, all these other network groups, like meet up groups, from all spectrums, neighborhood groups, political groups, organizational groups, what have you.
Then we move past that in January, and start looking at cross sector City planning and measures. What do comprehensive and cohesive action plans look like? Maybe by that time, we’ll have a sense of Comprehensive Plans. Maybe we’ll get a sense for civic issues that we want to work on as a City, like education, homelessness, joblessness.
The fourth topic, in March potentially, marshaling investments from private and public organizations. Let’s say, for example, this entity actually garners funding from a lot of sources, and we can leverage that towards these civic projects.
And then, lastly, a celebratory gala, where we showcase and feature some of our team efforts toward the projects. Now, along the way, we’re thinking about having Seattle Channel film many of these events, and also provide some prerecorded inserts that feature our team efforts. So in this 30-minute to one-hour production, we’ll have an in-person social networking opportunity with different folks from different sectors. We’ll have a keynote or panel discussion based on those topics I just shared with you. And we’ll have a little excerpt of a feature of a story on a team effort or Technology Matching Fund winner, which will have been awarded by September.
So that’s what we’re thinking about now. What we’d like to do is actually put that together and add to that some nonprofit partners that we think would like this concept. And maybe put some corporations on there, too, and make a proposal to this committee to see if we can move forward with that.
It’s a lot of stuff, but there’s a lot of energy in the group. You can see the participants of the group. It’s a small but powerful team of folks. And if any of you want to participate, please feel free to join us every fourth Tuesday.
The last project is the Washington State data internship project, which is kicking off this month. June 23 is our kick off. We’ve got eleven students coming from four universities, working with six data sets from the State of Washington. And then we’ll have data visualization coaches from Socrata, Microsoft, Tableau, helping the agency leaders learn more about visualization of open data, as well as helping the students learn how to use those technologies to collaborate virtually. So that’s an exciting project that we hope will go throughout the summertime and help these agency leaders develop their policies for the next legislative cycle in September. So that’s the goal for that.
Three folks, Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) is our nonprofit partner, and then we have Microsoft, Tableau and Socrata all helping to sponsor that. And, of course, Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the State of Washington kicked it off through Will Saunders.
Dashiell Milliman-Jarvis: Do you have any idea what data sets are being used for this.
Joneil Sampana: Good question. There are too many acronyms for the organizations, but the acronyms and the spelled out agency is listed on our web site.
Dashiell Milliman-Jarvis: I was just wondering how you check out some of the open data sets from Seattle, stuff like arrest records and stuff like that, that I personally find a little bit problematic if they were being manipulated or, “hey, look who in your neighborhood has been arrested recently” and the like.
Joneil Sampana: I see what you’re saying. What’s great about this project is this data set is newly released and the agency leaders are taking a lot of time and energy trying to make sure that the data set is a very strong and non-volatile data set. It’s a safe environment for them to explore.
Beryl Fernandes: That’s a very good point, because we are releasing tons of data onto the public with no controls whatsoever. One question. You mentioned the word, ‘leader.’ And you also mentioned civic engagement for Seattle. What is your definition of ‘leader?’
Joneil Sampana: I’ll take those separately. A leader would be, in context of civic awareness, is any person that represents our viewpoints on any issue. So if you feel strongly about potholes, and you have a sense of understanding of the issue, come to the table as a leader. Speak your voice with that authority because it is your story. It is your experience here in Seattle.
Beryl Fernandes: I’m really glad to hear that definition.
Doreen Cornwell: I seem to be in the slow data mode right now. We were talking earlier about Next Door. I get lost when we change our interfaces more often that I change my underwear. But the other piece of that is that when you’re doing things in the policy realm, we can change the data. But when you’re using it to make decisions, it’s nice if things are stable. Or if you focus on where there’s already value added. Like, whatever the City dashboard page is, it’s like no, it’s cool if you have some people with the know how-to talk to. I had a great conversation at Disco Tech about finding some people who are willing to go out, take it out to community councils and neighborhood groups and say, “See? You can get this data. And next month, you can get this other data”–the next generation of the same data. And then you can see what’s going on in your neighborhood. How much graffiti there is. Because where I think you’re going to get value is people working with this data. I used to play around with data when I had a job where I could [unintelligible) on a Friday afternoon. But there still was the need to do the monthly process so that all the other people who weren’t techies could see. I think there’s a little bit of tension about that in the open data world. How do you sustain it? How do you get it? How do you use it? So that you’re having a conversation where some of the same terms mean the same things. I’m kind of hot on that topic because right now I’m sitting on a thing called the Service Guidelines Task Force. Get the data out in a value added way and then don’t change it while you work the process.
I had this great conversation at the Disco Tech where other people were interested in that. You have a school teacher saying that we can use this data for this year to teach kids. It’s a different set of skills to decide what the data means, versus write code and compile it up and make a picture.
Joneil Sampana: To your point about that, and I’ll just comment briefly, obviously, we’re starting new with the data portal. With a couple of years under our belt–and there needs to be this normalizing of what each data set means–and that really is what Bruce Blood’s job is: to help us understand what these different data attributes are. Because from one set to the next, it probably is different. But as we learn more about each data set, and hopefully we won’t suffer from issue fatigue where you have a core of folks start out with the data set and maybe they stick with it for two years. That’s what is happening so far, and we’re seeing people jumping off the plateau. If we can reinvigorate their energy around that same issue still, and move it further down the road, then we actually won’t have that drop off. That’s what we’re trying to do here. Get people excited about it. Get more people involved from other perspectives. Add to it. Understand it. And move forward. Gotta stick with it. I think that’s my time.
Communications – CTAB Listservs & website
Nourisha Wells: Okay. We are way ahead of schedule. With the change of our name, as most of you know, we have gone from being CTTAB to CTAB, which means that we have some email change issues with the listserv and all that. And David Keyes is going to give an update on that.
David Keyes: We