Berkeley launches a city-led broadband initiative

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The Berkeley City Council took a big step last night toward supporting broadband development and, perhaps, to pursue a municipal fiber optic project or partnership with a private network operator. By a unanimous vote, the council told city staff to

  • Survey the city’s inventory of broadband, traffic signal and other conduit to assess its suitability for supporting a fiber optic network, with the goal of leasing it to one or more fiber companies.
  • Include conduit in next year’s planned street improvement program.
  • Specifically look at ways of improving broadband service and infrastructure in West Berkeley, which has more of an industrial character than other areas of the city.
  • Develop a shadow conduit ordinance that gives the city the option of putting its own conduit in the ground whenever telecoms companies do excavation work.

The recommendations were based on a broadband development assessment completed by Tellus Venture Associates. The study evaluated existing city policies, which already incorporates several best practices for broadband development such as coordination among utility companies whenever street cuts are made – often referred to as an open trench policy. A few additional recommendations were made, including the shadow conduit policy approved last night.

The report also examines the city’s existing conduit, which includes an extensive and largely underused downtown system – the result of an informal shadow conduit initiative – that was specifically built to support broadband service. The city also owns an extensive system of traffic signal conduit, similar to that used to build the Lit San Leandro network. The city’s underground assets are also near – in some cases interconnect with – several long haul fiber routes that connect to major data centers elsewhere in the Bay Area and other Internet hubs around California and the world.

Download the full report (about 15 MB)

Download the executive summary

Download the city staff report