San Francisco might install its own conduit anytime someone digs a hole


The City and County of San Francisco is on the verge of assuming that it will install conduit and, possibly, fiber optic cables whenever someone cuts into a street. A board of supervisors’ committee has endorsed a proposed ordinance that requires anyone – including utilities and the City itself – who applies for a permit to open a trench in the City’s right of way or otherwise digs a hole on City property to notify the department of technology (DT). According to a staff analysis of the draft

The purpose of the notice is to enable DT to determine whether to participate in the project by installing its own underground communications infrastructure. Under the ordinance, the presumption would be that DT will participate in the project unless DT notifies the applicant to the contrary. The proposed legislation would require DT to pay the incremental costs of installing its communications infrastructure in the trench…

“Incremental cost” shall mean the cost associated with adding City communications infrastructure to an excavation project. including the cost of the materials needed by the City and any additional labor costs.

The ultimate goal is to extend the City’s current 140 mile long network and, perhaps, lay the groundwork for a city-wide, city-run dark fiber system, not unlike Palo Alto or Santa Clara. The City already leases some capacity to medical and educational users.

The next San Francisco board of supervisors meeting is scheduled for a week from today, and that’s a likely time for the proposal to be considered. The agenda hasn’t been published though, so no guarantees.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.