Calif. Rep. Eshoo Introduces 'Dig Once’ Broadband Legislation Requiring Conduits

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Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, May 3 introduced legislation (number not yet available) that would require highway construction crews to lay “broadband conduits”--plastic pipes that house fiber-optic communications cable--during all new federal projects.

The idea behind the bill is to only “dig once” when a crew is on site. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90 percent of the cost of deploying fiber-optic cable in a public right-of-way can be attributed to digging up and then repairing the road to install the buried fiber.

“This legislation is a creative approach to more rapidly deploy broadband service, promote competition, and do so with limited federal dollars,” Eshoo said in a statement. “This 'dig once’ policy would expand broadband at a fraction of the cost by including the conduit as roads are being built.”

The Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2011 is being co-sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the full committee, Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.). The bill is similar to a measure (H.R. 2428) Eshoo introduced in May 2009.

The cable industry has issued a statement praising Eshoo for reintroducing the bill.

“We applaud Rep. Eshoo for introduction of the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2011, which will facilitate the further deployment of broadband service throughout the U.S.,” National Cable and Telecommunications Association Chief Executive Officer Michael Powell said. “We look forward to working with Rep. Eshoo and other policymakers on creative solutions to lower the cost of broadband deployment so that every American can benefit from this important service.”

By Paul Barbagallo