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Originally published Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 9:04 PM

Corrected version

Comcast, Metro city plan Pioneer Square broadband

Mayor Mike McGinn announced today that businesses will have high-speed Internet access in Pioneer Square by September.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Pioneer Square businesses should have access to high-speed broadband Internet by September, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced Wednesday.

The introduction of high-speed Internet is part of the city's strategy to attract tech companies to the historic neighborhood, he said.

The project was spurred by King County Metro Transit, which wants improved Internet capabilities to trigger early green lights for buses. Comcast and Seattle are sharing the costs.

Comcast is negotiating with the city for the right to lease part of a 4-inch conduit that will hold fiber-optic cable along four blocks of First Avenue, from Cherry Street to Jackson Street. Any businesses in the buildings along the cable route would have access to broadband service through Comcast.

Currently, the area has no high-speed fiber-optic Internet service, which is up to 100 times faster than DSL, according to the Mayor's Office. Comcast is slated to pay $78,000 in one-time fees to cover part of the cable's installation, plus $4,057 in annual leasing fees, according to city documents.

The city installed the conduit, a protective casing for the cable, along First Avenue while it doing utility relocation work, according to McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus.

Metro and Comcast will cover the cost of the conduit and cable, Pickus said.

Improved Internet access is just one component of a broader plan the mayor outlined for Pioneer Square's revitalization. He also called for opening a public restroom, increasing residential density and ramping up marketing efforts to re-brand Pioneer Square as a "cool, artsy neighborhood."

The neighborhood has a reputation as a hangout for the homeless, a hub of social services and a frequent locale for open-air drug dealing. Last year, Elliott Bay Book Company, an anchor business and major tourist destination, left for Capitol Hill because of decreased sales, limited parking options for customers and not enough police presence.

"We're by no means complacent or think that we've got the problems licked in Pioneer Square. We know it's going to take a lot more work," McGinn said.

In the next few weeks, the city will conduct an evaluation of metered parking to see whether increases made in January to parking rates in some areas resulted in less usage; if so, hourly parking rates in neighborhoods such as Pioneer Square, which saw a hike from $2.50 to $3.50, might decrease, McGinn said.

The city already has plans to lower hourly parking rates from $4 to $3.50 between Columbia Street and Yesler Way in Pioneer Square.

Metro wanted to enhance its Internet capacity with fiber-optic cable, according to city documents. Since Seattle planned to tear up the street for the installation, the city requested proposals from private Internet providers to lease access to the conduit.

Todd Elliot, regional director of enterprise sales for Comcast, said the company had wanted to install broadband in the neighborhood before, but it was too costly. By sharing in the cost, it became a sensible business proposal, he said.

J.B. Wogan: 206-464-2206 or jwogan@seattletimes.com

Information in this article, originally published June 15, 2011, was corrected June 17, 2011. A previous version of this story implied the city paid to rip up four blocks of First Avenue for the sole purpose of installing the cable conduit. In fact, the city was doing utility relocation work and installed the conduit at the same time.

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