Comcast, CenturyLink spent $50K on candidate who opposed municipal broadband

Like dozens of other cities across the country, Seattle is currently in the midst of a mayoral race. But unlike some others, this election has drawn the attention of Big Telecom, with CenturyLink and Comcast forking over more than $50,000 combined to a political action committee that’s campaigning for one candidate: former US Attorney Jenny Durkan.

Though there could be lots of motivations for these companies to contribute to the PAC, local digital divide activists say it’s no coincidence that the candidate Big Telecom is rallying behind is the one who doesn’t believe a municipal broadband network—or “muninet”—is feasible.

Big Telecom doesn’t really have the most creative responses [to a municipal network proposal],” said Devin Glaser, the policy and political director for Upgrade Seattle, a municipal broadband advocacy group. “But what they do is put lots and lots of money behind people who find reasons to dislike the idea.”

About 15 percent of Seattleites don’t have access to the internet, according to the city’s most recent survey. Though there’s plenty of infrastructure, the cost is prohibitive for many people. That’s why Seattle has been mulling over the idea of a municipal broadband network—which would deliver high-speed internet as a public utility, like electricity—for decades. But the two mayoral candidates have very different stances on whether such a network is the right idea.

Jenny Durkan, left, and Cary Moon, right, Seattle’s two mayoral candidates. Images: Durkan campaign and Moon campaign