Caltrans opens the road for broadband projects

12 February 2018 by Steve Blum
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California highway projects are now broadband projects too. Or can be. Caltrans wrapped up development of standard rules and procedures for adding third party conduit to highway construction projects, and published a guide for “Wired Broadband Stakeholders”. It covers “partnering”, which is adding a separate, third party trench to a road project, and “co-location”, which involves Caltrans and a third party both installing conduit in a Caltrans trench.

There are limits on who can participate. Local government are eligible. So are non-profits, cable companies and certified telephone companies. The policy doesn’t exactly rule out small Internet service providers that haven’t gone to the trouble of getting a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the California Public Utilities Commission, but those that haven’t will have an uphill battle that they may not win.

Anyone adding a trench or conduit to a Caltrans project will have to bear the full cost, including design and construction, encroachment permits (which are required) and reimbursement of any extra state money spent by Caltrans as a result.

What Caltrans isn’t doing is getting into the broadband infrastructure business itself, unless a local agency is involved…

Caltrans will not share Caltrans-owned conduit, duct, or fiber optic cable strands with broadband providers. Caltrans may choose to share conduit or fibers with local government agencies for exchanging transportation data and services as part of a regional communications network infrastructure.

Broadband projects will be managed at a district level – Caltrans has 12 districts that cover the state – with a designated, single point of contact to respond to enquiries. A list of eligible projects has been posted, and will be periodically updated.

Caltrans was spurred into action by assembly bill 1549, which was passed in 2016, and by subsequent follow up negotiations last year. The final document is the result of a series of meetings with representatives from broadband companies and regional broadband consortia, including myself.


Caltrans Wired Broadband Facility User Guide, 1 January 2018

Caltrans template broadband construction contract, 1 January 2018

Caltrans template broadband design contract, 1 January 2018


General Caltrans information for wired broadband projects.

Includes links to a map of Caltrans highway projects and district contacts.

I served on Caltrans’ conduit task force and I’ve advocated for and helped to draft AB 1549. I’m involved and proud of it. Take it for what it’s worth.