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Tuesday, August 29, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seattle pares broadband list

Seattle Times technology reporter

Companies joining Seattle's broadband review


The city of Seattle plans to talk with 11 companies interested in helping build a high-speed broadband fiber network.

ACI Communications: Potential joint venture of Stargate Telecom, Fujikura, ACI and National Datacom. Suggests deploying fiber in stages.

Bechtel Telecommunications: Engineering, construction and project-management company that has worked on Portland light rail and Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It's offering financing resources, consulting, engineering and construction services.

Ericsson: Working with Spokane-based World Wide Packets, it wants to build fiber to the premises.

iTown Communications: Through a public-private partnership, it will plan, finance, deploy and operate a network.

Lucent Technologies: Wants to deploy a wireline and wireless network for voice, data and video.

NextNet Investments: Includes NextNet of Washougal, Clark County; AFL Telecommunications of Spartanburg, S.C., and Leviton Voice & Data of Bothell. AFL is owned by Fujikura of Japan, which has 225,000 fiber customers.

PacketFront: A Swedish company, it has about 300,000 fiber subscribers. It seeks to build a network including fiber, copper, coaxial cable and wireless.

Qwest: Telecom giant has experience providing services that compete with cable. In some markets, it provides TV through fiber deployed to neighborhoods or homes.

US MetroNets: Has contracts to deploy fiber to the premise for 30,000 households and businesses in Wyoming and Nevada.

Verizon Business: Started rolling out fiber-to-the-premise networks in 2004. Has experience in financing, building and operating huge networks.

Vulcan: Owned by Paul Allen, the company helped build Qwest Field and is playing a major role in the revitalization of South Lake Union.

Source: city of Seattle

The city of Seattle is talking with 11 companies as it pushes forward on a proposal to build a high-speed broadband network to every home and business in the city by 2015.

The companies were screened from 28 that responded to a city request for those interested in the plan to submit documents outlining their expertise in building and financing broadband networks.

The response came after a city task force concluded in May that for Seattle to stay competitive, it needed to build an advanced fiber-optic network that could deliver voice, video and data services.

Seattle is one of many U.S. cities trying to determine whether it should play a role in providing Internet services or leave it up to existing communications providers such as Qwest and Comcast.

The debate includes the type of technology that should be used: wireless services, or fiber to the home, which provides fast speeds and lots of bandwidth but can be very costly.

Some cities, including Berkeley, Calif., and St. Paul, Minn., are evaluating fiber. Others, such as San Francisco and Philadelphia, have already chosen to build citywide Wi-Fi networks.

As incentive for private companies to build Seattle's system, the city said it would provide access to assets it controls, including 350 miles of existing fiber, as well as wires and towers.

The city received binder-thick responses from companies before narrowing the list to 11.

The companies that made the cut are ACI Communications, Bechtel Telecommunications, Ericsson, iTown Communications, Lucent Technologies, NextNet Investments, PacketFront, Qwest, US MetroNets, Verizon Business and Vulcan.

PacketFront said a network it builds would include several types of technologies, including fiber, copper, coaxial cable and wireless. It said the city could use the network to provide applications to police and fire and to automate reading of electricity meters.

Qwest said it had experience deploying fiber to provide video in some cities. But Qwest, which has been questioned by the city over whether it has the financial means to deploy fiber, said to participate it needs to be "reasonably certain that it will be able to earn a reasonable return on its investment."

Verizon Business said it has the experience in building, and operating networks the city is looking for, emphasizing it has "the financial stability to engage in a project of this magnitude."

Paul Allen's Vulcan, which helped build Qwest Field and is rebuilding the South Lake Union neighborhood, issued a one-page response. It said it has built broadband networks around the world for video, voice and data. One example, it said, was at Qwest Field.

Companies the city eliminated from consideration included Motorola, Fujitsu, Kirkland-based Clearwire and Seattle-based AboveNet.

Clearwire, which is building a business of providing wireless broadband through WiMax technology, argued that its system would provide an additional perk — mobility.

Motorola suggested three technologies to achieve the city's goals: broadband over power line and two other wireless technologies.

City spokeswoman D'Anne Mount said the city will talk to the companies during the week of Sept. 25 and then could choose to go in a number of directions. Most likely, it would consider issuing a request for proposal, she said.

Another possibility is the city would determine deploying fiber was not feasible.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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