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Reps. Walden, Eshoo Introduce 'Dig Once' Bill

The chair and ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee have teamed up on a "Dig Once" broadband deployment bill, the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2015.

The bill would mandate the inclusion of plastic broadband conduit pipes during the construction of any road built with federal funds given that there is a "demonstrated need" for broadband or an anticipated need in the near future (15 years).

Driving home the road metaphor, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said: "Paving the way for smoother deployment of state-of-the-art-broadband networks has long been a goal for our subcommittee. This legislation meets that goal and makes it easier to connect more Americans to this vital 21st century resource."

“Today our information highways are just as important as our interstate highways,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who has been pushing for such legislation since at least 2009. “By laying broadband conduit during construction of roads that receive federal funding, broadband providers can later install fiber-optic cable without costly excavation of newly-built roads. ‘Dig once’ is a commonsense bipartisan policy that will significantly reduce the cost of broadband deployment in our country.”

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, whose members travel along that communications highway, was understandably pleased.

“We applaud Chairman Walden and Ranking Member Eshoo for introducing the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2015, legislation that will help lower the cost for deploying broadband networks along federal highways. As the nation’s largest wired Internet provider, the cable industry welcomes efforts by policymakers to develop creative solutions that encourage more investment in broadband infrastructure so that we can continue to be a global leader in this important technology."

"ACA supports the Eshoo-Walden broadband deployment bill because it will further reduce the cost of laying thousands of miles of fiber optic lines by private businesses," said the American Cable Association in a statement. "It's also a win for taxpayers because the fiscally prudent 'dig once' approach championed by the Eshoo-Walden bill is designed to use scarce federal road-construction dollars to meet multiple important infrastructure objectives."

CenturyLink said the bill would "mak[e] it easier and more cost-effective to connect more Americans to the high-speed information superhighway. We welcome the committee’s attention to this important issue and support efforts to remove barriers to broadband deployment.”

“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.”

He said that while it is estimated that laying the conduit via dig once would add 1% to the cost of a road project (plastic pipes), while making it 90% cheaper to deploy fiber optic cables and cover the costs of laying the conduit via leasing it from the government.

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.