Tacoma City Council approves Click! Network on April 8, 1997.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/30/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5149
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On April 8, 1997, the Tacoma City Council votes to build the Click! Network and offer cable television and telecommunications services using fiber-optic cable. The move places the City in competition with privately owned cable companies such as TCI and makes Tacoma the largest city to build and run its own cable system.

In 1996, the Stanford Research Institute studied how Tacoma City Light should direct its assets in the newly deregulated telecommunications market. The utility used high-speed data lines to manage its power generation and distribution systems. A new fiber-optic system would cost $15 million, and for an additional $30 million, City Light could also provide commercial telecommunications services. These improvements could be paid for in part by offering residents cable television. Cable company TCI provided cable television services in Tacoma, but many customers were dissatisfied with the company's service. Negotiations between the City and TCI on a renewal of the franchise had stalled for three years. The study done for City Light predicted that a city system would win half of TCI's customers.

In 1997, Tacoma City Light proposed a $65-million plan, which was approved after hearings and neighborhood meetings. The system was launched in July 1998, and costs grew to $89 million.

In 1999, Tacoma City Councilman (later mayor) Bill Baarsema stated, "This is the single biggest economic decision the council has made since the turn of the last century, when the City Council decided to move forward with the construction of the first hydroelectric dam on the Nisqually River. Things are happening here that are happening nowhere else" (News Tribune).

By the end of 1999, 600 miles of cable had been installed and 11,000 Tacoma residents subscribed to Click! Network cable television. Downtown businesses and some residents also used the high-speed data services. The Click! Network was credited with helping bring new businesses to Tacoma. However, the energy crisis of 2001 forced Tacoma Public Utilities to delay extension of service to Tacoma suburbs because Tacoma Power funds were needed to buy electricity.


Barbara Clements, "Tough Fight Likely Over Cable Plans," The News Tribune (Tacoma), April 6, 1997, p. B-1; "City Cable Venture A Risky Proposition," Ibid., May 29, 1996, p. A-10; Bill Virgin and Cynthia Flash, "Click! Network Reaches Milestone," Ibid., December 29, 1999, A-1; "Tacoma City Light Wants To Provide Data and TV Cables," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 25, 1997, B-4; George Erb, "Tacoma's Click Won't Expand Reach," Puget Sound Business Journal, May 11, 2001, p. 3.

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