California dig once bill beefed up

24 May 2016 by Steve Blum
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At least it’s moving again.

Caltrans would have to let broadband companies and other organisations know about opportunities to include conduit in road construction and maintenance projects. If no one bites, then Caltrans would install it. That’s what new dig once amendments to assembly bill 1549 would require, if it becomes law…

  • During the design phase of a department-led highway construction project, the department shall notify verified companies and organizations of the project to encourage collaborative broadband installations.
  • For the purpose of supporting fiber optic communication cables, after receiving notification from the department, a verified company or organization may collaborate with the department to install a broadband conduit as part of the project.
  • If no verified company or organization collaborates with the department and no broadband conduit previously exists in the project area, the department, as part of the project, shall install a broadband conduit capable of supporting fiber optic communication cables.

Carried by north coast assemblyman Jim Wood, AB 1549 started out with similar language, and then was pared back to a simple conduit inventory program for Caltrans. The cut-down version of the bill passed through the assembly on unanimous votes, and then landed in the California senate’s transportation and housing committee, where the changes were made and where the new language will be reviewed for the first time.

When it was a simple conduit inventory program, there wasn’t much to not like about AB 1549, at least as far as it went, so no one opposed it. With the revived dig once provisions, it’s likely to be more controversial and push back – if not outright efforts to derail it – can be expected from 1. budget hawks who object to the real, but relatively minor costs involved, 2. Caltrans, which naturally enough prefers to make these decisions itself, and 3. incumbent telephone and cable companies that see independent conduit and fiber projects as a competitive threat rather than an infrastructure opportunity.

I’ve advocated for and helped to draft AB 1549. I’m involved and proud of it. Take it for what it’s worth.