House Transportation Committee OKs Broadband Conduit 'Dig Once' Bill

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Gary Arlen)

With broadband infrastructure buildouts in the D.C. spotlight as arguably never before, "dig once" legislation may finally be moving from the bully pulpit to the presidential pen.

On Thursday (June 10), the the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee--after a 19-hour markup--favorably reported the bipartisan Nationwide Dig Once Act out of committee as part of the larger INVEST in America Act transportation reauthorization bill.

Also Read: DOT Advises States to Treat Broadband As Utility

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped spotlight the need for speeding broadband deployment to rural and other unserved areas, which the bill could help do. Also helping to propel the bill is that the Biden Administration wants to start spending billions to get broadband to all those unserved areas ASAP.

Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has told Congress that DOT is committed to backing Dig Once legislation.

The Dig Once Act would require that the plastic conduit that houses fiber optic cable be included in the construction of any road being built with federal funds in areas without broadband, which is "designed to reduce the cost and accelerate the deployment of broadband by minimizing the number and scale of repeated excavations for the installation and maintenance of broadband conduit or broadband infrastructure in rights-of-way."

The bill also provides for notification of broadband providers who want the opportunity to use those conduits rather than having install their own.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who, along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on the Senate side has long championed such legislation, called the committee's action on the bill, of which she is principal sponsor, "a major win for broadband across the U.S."

Eshoo first introduced Dig Once legislation, the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act, over a decade ago and has reappeared periodically without success. The bill was re-introduced most recently last June, but never got past the introduction stage

In addition to Eshoo, co-sponsors of the bill are Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), and Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.).

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.