Thursday, August 18, 2011
House democrats seek cost estimates for broadband 'dig once' mandate
According to a report from The Hill, a number of House democrats have asked the Government Accountability Office for a cost-benefit estimate of a "dig once" policy that would demand the installation of fiber optic cables during any highway construction.
In fiscal year 2009, the Federal Highway Administration claimed that the federal government aided several states with funds for 5,000 miles of new highway construction, says the report.
The legislators have asked the GAO to look at the impacts of a national "dig once" policy, specifically asking for the expenses and benefits along with findings regarding the extent to which such a policy would divert dollars away from the actual highway construction.
Representative Anna Eshoo of California introduced the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act in May of this year, says the report. The new law would require the inclusion of broadband conduit during the construction of federal highways. The conduits are plastic pipes that will house the broadband fiber optic cables. The new legislation was originally co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Henry Waxman from California and Doris Matsui of California, and has added 18 more co-sponsors since its introduction.
According to a letter from Eshoo and the original co-sponsors, the Federal Communications Commission reports that the biggest expense of deploying fiber-optic-based broadband networks is not the fiber itself so much as the cost of the placement and installation.
This includes the cost of physically burying the fiber-optic lines under the ground. The FCC estimates that running fiber-optic cables through an existing conduit made for such cables and optimized for fiber-optics is three to four times less expensive than the costs associated with constructing a new aerial build, says the report.
"Given the scale of the federal government's funding of highway construction, we believe the installation of conduit in these projects could greatly facilitate the deployment of broadband networks," the letter contends. The letter also asks which states and local governments have already passed "dig once" mandates and which locations would benefit the greatest from such a federal mandate.
According to a report from Tech-Progress, this approach appears to be an eminently sensible way to spur broadband deployment and encouraging all government digging to achieve two goals. This would result in a clear gain in efficiency.