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Internet connectivity slow in Totem Lake; city seeks solution during Kirkland event
Apparently, Totem Lake businesses get the short end of the stick when it comes to Internet connectivity.
After a few business people approached Kirkland City Council members about the problem, city staff researched for two months and confirmed, despite Kirkland’s overall excellence in this arena, the problem areas were concentrated more so in the Totem Lake business district.
“We’re in a better position than many other cities in the area - statewide and throughout the country,” said Kirkland’s Chief Information Officer Brenda Cooper. “However, we also found that we still have holes. We have places where people can’t get easy connectivity.”
Cooper added broadband is a catalyst for attracting business - something the Totem Lake Conversation events have focused on for quite some time.
City officials met with business people from EvergreenHealth, Studio East, Lake Washington Institute of Technology, and Comcast, among others, at the most recent Totem Lake Conversation event at Cafe Veloce Monday to discuss ideas for a solution.
Cooper, Mayor Joan McBride, Councilwoman Amy Walen and Economic Development Manager Ellen Miller-Wolfe presented the discussion, which was based on recent business Internet survey results.
Comcast, Frontier, Wave Broadband, TW Telecom, and Integra were interviewed, along with 120 businesses surveyed on broadband speed, reliable connection and general service.
While 69 percent of the businesses were satisfied with their Internet connectivity, 30 percent stated they are not.
“This should be considered a serious problem when considered against how important businesses indicated that they consider broadband very important in a follow-up question,” said city documents that were presented at the event.
Sixty-three percent of businesses surveyed said Internet bandwidth was critical and that their business depends on it, while 25 percent said it was important, indicating reliable Internet is necessary and important for 89 percent of Kirkland businesses surveyed.
But Totem Lake businesses had the highest Internet unsatisfactory rate of 12 out of the 22 that were surveyed, according to the survey results.
“It’s not as simple as one or two reasons why they can’t get the connectivity,” Cooper said.
The cost of putting fiber into an older building is very expensive - between $50 and $150 a foot, which could be a reason, she said.
Other reasons include landlord reluctance, high Internet provider cost, or lack of information.
“There’s actually 10 different [companies] that provide business Internet connectivity, but most people only [know] two or three,” Cooper said, as she challenged attendees to write a list of known Internet providers.
The city developed a list of options that include tasks, such as gather more information, provide short-term and longterm solutions or “bolder” strategies - for addressing business Internet connectivity.
However, Cooper stressed the city would not go into the Internet provider service when all is said and done.
“We don’t anticipate a world where [you would] call the city and say ‘sign me up for Internet,’ OK?” Cooper laughed. “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things the city can do, some of which might take some investment on our part. And some of which are simpler than that.”
Some of the simpler steps include information gathering on other providers, finding out actual costs for solutions and researching other city strategies.
Other options include installing wireless Internet at the Totem Lake Park and Cross Kirkland Corridor, alerting providers to when roads are open for vital conduit opportunities or actively putting conduit into all city road projects when they are open for other construction - a high expense and seemingly bolder option.
Although the Totem Lake Conversation meeting was meant to brainstorm ideas and get the conversation started about business Internet connectivity in Totem Lake, McBride said it all plays into the future of this vital business district.
“If we believe in our heart that Totem Lake is the future of our city, where our amazing healthcare is, amazing educational institutions are, where we have amazing businesses, where we can see the Totem Lake Malls revisited, where we’ll see a number of IT businesses come, I just don’t know why we wouldn’t make the investment,” McBride said. “It’s something we have to go forward with.”
City staff presented the issue at a Kirkland City Council committee meeting on Monday. But before the issue can be brought up at a Council meeting, Cooper said more work needs to be done.
She suggested understanding the cost of some of the preliminary options is one of the first steps needed before they can develop a clear plan.
To submit ideas on how to improve Kirkland’s business Internet connectivity, contact Brenda Cooper at email@example.com.
The next Totem Lake Conversation will be held 12-1 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Cafe Veloce and will be geared around discussing the Comprehensive Plan update.