Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rep. Eshoo 'Gets It': Files Legislation Requiring Fiber Optic Conduits in Federal Highway Projects 05/14/09 Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) today introduced legislation to require new conduit banks for fiber optic communications cable be installed in all federal highway projects going forward.
“According to industry experts, more than half of the cost of new broadband deployment is attributable to the expense of tearing up and repaving roads,” stated Rep. Eshoo in a press release of today.

“By putting the broadband conduit in place while the ground beneath the roadways is exposed, we will enable any authorized communications provider to come in later and install fiber-optic cable at far less cost."

Eshoo, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and her colleagues are calling the proposed legislation the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act. will post a full text of the bill when it becomes available online.

Of critical importance to the legislative success of Eshoo's bill are her influential colleagues on Energy & Commerce that are co-sponsoring the legislation: Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Virginia), and Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA). Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) is working on similar legislation for introduction in the United States Senate.

According to the Eshoo release: The legislation will require all new federal highway projects to include “broadband conduit” – plastic pipes which house fiber-optic communications cable.

The Broadband Conduit Deployment Act would apply to all new road projects funded by federal surface transportation legislation, which is due to be reauthorized this year. The Department of Transportation is permitted to waive the requirement where necessary and is required to work with the FCC to determine levels of existing service and potential demand for broadband service in a particular area.

“Depending on what study you look at, the U.S. ranks anywhere from 15th to 22nd in broadband, behind countries such as Finland, Belgium, and Luxembourg,” said Eshoo. “Anything we can do to reduce the barriers to deployment and increase investment and competition for broadband will make our country more connected, more competitive, and more prosperous. This simple, commonsense proposal will actually do a great deal to connect more Americans to more affordable, higher quality broadband connectivity.”

Eshoo, of California's 14th. congressional district, represents what is arguably (along with her neighbor Mike Honda in the California 15th.) the most technology intensive congressional district in the nation. It is no surprise that such a tech savvy Member of Congress would introduce such a piece of forward looking legislation.

Our Take: Representative Eshoo absolutely positively "gets it" with the filing of her legislation today. Conduit construction, pole attachment policies, and local public rights-of-way (ROW) permitting are literally the bricks and mortar of broadband networks.

Those of us that build large scale carrier-grade networks know the time and dollars that are too often lost when state highway czars, local officials, and engineers treat the public ROW as their individual fiefdoms. Some officials treat the American telecom industry as a golden goose that they believe can be strangled for confiscatory levels of fees, permits, and "franchises".

The Eshoo bill is a good start, but it is just that. We hope that a coalition of network developers will come forward to address Congress about the urgent need for federal ROW policy that will end obstructionist state and local practices where they exist. America's 21st Century broadband future is too important to be held hostage by today's Boss Tweeds reminiscent of the 19th Century.
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