WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Greg Waden (R-OR) proposed draft legislation to make broadband deployment cheaper and easier by requiring that a “Dig Once” conduit be installed anytime a federally-funded highway or road is dug up. This would add an estimated 1% on the cost of a road project but make it 90% cheaper for private companies to deploy fiber optic cables, which can easily be threaded through conduits without further digging or disruption. Multiple providers could use a single conduit and each would pay for the cost of conduits by leasing them from the government.

The Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2015 closely resembles legislation Eshoo introduced in 2007 and 2009. Eshoo did not reintroduce her legislation last Congress because President Obama issued an Executive Order in 2012 promising that Federal Agencies would coordinate on Dig Once Conduits. That Order has largely proven toothless.

There’s no better way for government to improve American broadband than to install Dig Once conduits,” said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom. “They’ll make broadband deployment much cheaper, and promote competitive alternatives to cable. That means faster, cheaper broadband for all, benefiting marginalized rural areas and inner cities the most.”

Szoka cited three key advantages of “Dig Once” Conduits:

  • Faster, cheaper broadband everywhere: Private companies have already poured over $1.4 trillion into broadband deployment, but they’d invest even more if they got more bang for their buck. Today, Cable and telcos are vying to one-up each other, new companies like Google Fiber are installing a ‘third pipe’ to the home, and wireless services are upgrading their 4G networks. Dig Once conduits would help all these competitors, especially new entrants, by dramatically lowering the cost of deployment.
  • An affordable way to bridge the digital divide in rural America: Just as the Interstate Highway System once connected rural America, a 21st-century system of smart highways could transform the economics of rural broadband deployment. Cheaper ‘middle mile’ networks could carry traffic to small towns, dramatically boosting ‘last mile’ speeds. They’d also make it much cheaper to connect wireless towers, bringing better wireless broadband to rural areas where wired service is cost-prohibitive. This is especially important for farmers: smart machinery and drones are transforming agriculture, but need connectivity to be truly effective.
  • A better way to connect urban America than government-owned broadband networks: Cities around America have poured taxpayer dollars into ‘muni broadband networks’ that displace private providers and usually survive only with ongoing subsidies. Conduits offer a third way between the status quo and outright broadband socialism. They will provide the major arteries for conduit networks inside cities, since major feeder streets receive federal funding and will thus qualify for the bill’s requirements. It will be up to cities to states and cities to pass Dig Once laws of their own — so they can extend conduit networks to capillaries of the last mile.

This bill could be the beginning of a reset on Washington’s paralyzed debate over broadband policy,” concluded Jon Henke, TechFreedom’s Strategic Director. “The conduit is the real commons that everybody should have access to. A new era of broadband competition will begin when deployment is as simple as running a wire, not digging up a road.”


We can be reached for comment at media@techfreedom.org. See our other work on promoting broadband deployment, including:

  • Roadmap by which governments at all levels can promote broadband deployment
  • “The FCC’s Section 706 Power Grab is Dangerous, and Ignores Marketplace Realities,” a summary of our comments on the FCC’s annual report on broadband deployment
  • “Don’t Blame Big Cable. It’s Local Governments That Choke Broadband Competition,” Berin Szoka and Jon Henke in Wired.com
  • A Third Way on Muni Broadband, TechFreedom & ICLE statement, summarizing comments opposing petitions asking the FCC to preempt state laws governing muni broadband