WASHINGTON, DC — Today, TechFreedom led a coalition letter joined by ITIF, R Street, and the Niskanen Center in support of ‘Dig Once’ and other policies that would make it easier to deploy broadband along federally funded highways. The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing today on this topic, including draft legislation first proposed by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Greg Walden (R-OR) in 2015 that would require installing a conduit during construction of a federally-funded highway or road in an area that needs more broadband.
From the letter:
“Dig Once” conduits are as basic and uncontroversial as tech-related legislation gets. There is no reason why governments should dig up roads without installing broadband conduit for a miniscule fraction of the total cost of the dig. Failure to implement Dig Once means more construction, more disruption, and much higher costs for private providers — who may simply decide not to deploy in an area where the economics don’t work. The tiny cost of installing conduit (about 1% in added costs) pales in comparison to the taxpayer burden of unnecessary digs, traffic congestion, and the opportunity cost of not having high-speed networks that both help support public services and grow the economy.
“Dig Once” is only part of the solution. The overall goal should be to make better use of federal and state rights of way for broadband deployment. Dig Once should not be limited to conduits installed under hard surfaces (like asphalt); it may be more useful and cheaper to install conduits in the rights of way alongside highways in the course of a road project. The rationale underlying Dig Once — it makes sense to coordinate among multiple users, and accommodating potential future users in a single conduit — also applies to publicly owned rights of way: it also makes sense to coordinate multiple parties when they want to put up new poles, or use existing poles, or to use currently “dumb” infrastructure like highway lamps to support new antennas.
“There is no silver bullet for deployment challenges,” said Tom Struble, TechFreedom Policy Counsel. “Promoting deployment requires coordination at all levels of government, and rural Kansas will always pose different obstacles than the hilly streets of San Francisco. Nonetheless, bills like the draft put forward by Rep. Eshoo, and Sen. John Thune’s MOBILE NOW Act, seek to create the right framework for boosting deployment by making smarter use of public assets and requiring states to play an active role in coordinating broadband infrastructure deployment on government lands.”