Rubber Meets Road for Broadband Conduit Bill

The $7.2 billion set aside by the government for the broadband stimulus package isn’t the only bucket of money for telecom to tap into. Case in point is the “Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2009” introduced to the Senate this week, which would require any federally-funded transportation construction to also trench fiber along the road.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn.), and Mark Warner, (D-Va.) sponsored the bill, which calls for highway crews to put in conduits and fiber—might as well, as long as the road is torn up anyway.

The idea, not quite outlined specifically in the text of the bill, is to allow service providers open access to the fiber.

FCC Chairman-designate Julius Genachowski praised the bill for being an example of pragmatic solutions to getting broadband out to the masses.

A similar bill recently introduced in the House would amend the Federal Highway Act to require new construction to include “an appropriate number of broadband conduits” as determined by the Secretary of Transportation.

The legislation draws inspiration from a proposal put out by the New America Foundation’s Wireless Future Program and Open Technology Initiative in January.

“Building a 21st Century Broadband Superhighway,” calls for earmarking $1.2 to $3.6 billion in the 2009 Omnibus Transportation Bill to mandate and fund the build-out of open access, conduit and fiber-optic infrastructure into the construction, resurfacing and upgrading of our nation’s highway system.

The New America plan contains seven key elements:

1. Fiber bundles of between 144 and 288 strands laid in an easily accessed ductwork and conduit system;

2. Fiber links should have easily accessible interconnection points that allow providers access on a non-discriminatory basis;

3. Common carriage and wholesale access on these network links;

4. AUP-free use of these fiber assets and any additional links necessary to reach an open interconnection point;

5. Access to any and all entities seeking to offer data services, both for-profit and nonprofit, including municipalities;

6. An accurate assessment and mapping the build-out process and functionality; and,

7. A revenue-sharing agreement wherein users contribute to a “Digital Excellence Fund” to support continuing fiber build-outs and provide funding for digital literacy and educational programs to increase broadband adoption.

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