U.S. senate looks at conduit requirements for federal highway projects

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The “Mobile Now” bill that was introduced in the U.S. senate is mostly about freeing up more government-reserved spectrum for broadband purposes, but it also includes an endorsement, if not a full-on commitment, to a dig once policy. It expresses a desire for federal transportation officials to include conduit in highway projects

It is the sense of Congress that Federal agencies should endeavor to create policy that–

  1. evaluates and provides for the inclusion of broadband conduit installation in federally funded highway construction projects;
  2. provides for such inclusion without negatively impacting the safety, operations, and maintenance of the highway facility, its users, or others;
  3. promotes investment and competition by ensuring that communications providers may access such conduit on a nondiscriminatory basis; and
  4. limits any burden on State departments of transportation incurred by the inclusion of broadband conduit in such projects.

The dig once language in the Mobile Now bill is a lot less specific than one that’s now under consideration in the house of representatives. The house bill incorporates detailed dig once provisions, originally proposed by Silicon Valley congresswoman Anna Eshoo. Both the senate and house versions require federal officials to develop an inventory of broadband-relevant assets and find ways to make those available to telecommunications companies.

The senate bill is more ambiguous, particularly the bit about limiting the burden on state transportation departments – since it’s the states that actually design highway projects and contract out the work, that could be read as a loophole. But either way, it’s more than we have now.