‘Dig Once’ Broadband Legislation Generates Bipartisan Support

“Dig Once” legislation — whereby construction workers would install plastic pipes any time they build or upgrade roads and sidewalks — is gaining momentum. The idea is that, although the plastic pipes that can house fiber cables may be empty when installed, they make it easier and cheaper to add at a later date. Good news is that the proposal has bipartisan support, having been proposed since 2009 by California Democrat congresswoman Anna Eshoo and now supported by Tennessee Republican representative Marsha Blackburn.

Ars Technica reports that Blackburn, chair of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, placed the “Dig Once” legislation proposed by Eshoo on the agenda for a hearing on broadband deployment and infrastructure.

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Although she didn’t openly endorse the policy, she said it was under discussion to potentially “facilitate the deployment of communications infrastructure,” and be part of “an inventory of federal assets that can be used to attach or install broadband infrastructure.” The bill “requires states to evaluate the need for broadband conduit any time they complete a highway construction project that gets federal funding.”

If the evaluation, done “in consultation with local and national telecom providers and equipment makers … reveals an anticipated need in the next 15 years for broadband conduit,” projects should include enough pipe “to accommodate multiple broadband providers.” Boston and San Francisco already require this for city-funded projects.

Other Republican support for the legislation came from Commerce Committee chairman Greg Walden, a representative from Oregon, who said he was “glad to see Ms. Eshoo’s ‘Dig Once’ bill has made a return this Congress.”

“I think that this is smart policy and will help spur broadband deployment across the country,” he added. Both former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, and current chair, Republican Ajit Pai also support it, as does libertarian think tank TechFreedom, as well as some ISPs and broadband industry lobbyists.

CTIA, which “represents the nation’s largest mobile carriers including AT&T and Verizon Wireless,” and Competitive Carriers Association, which represents about 100 smaller wireless carriers, are also supporters.