Thousands of broadband projects in California highways every year, but no one's keeping track

13 January 2016 by Steve Blum
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A push to get Caltrans – the California department of transportation – to play nice with broadband companies and publish information about where it has conduit available is moving forward in Sacramento. The assembly transportation committee voted unanimously on Monday to send assembly bill 1549, authored by assemblyman Jim Wood (D – Healdsburg), onward toward a full floor vote. That has to happen by the end of the month, in order to make legislative deadlines. If it doesn’t the bill is dead.

An analysis by committee staff points out that there’s already a lot of conduit in Caltrans’ right of way, but the agency doesn’t know where it is…

Caltrans issues approximately 12,000 encroachment permits annually, about 4,000 to 5,000 of which are telecommunications related and may involve broadband installations. The department does not keep a complete inventory of all existing conduits within its right-of-way, due in part to its inability to adequately secure as-built documents from utilities when they do work within the right-of-way. Furthermore, the department does not update encroachment permit data over time. For instance, it does not track changes in ownership of a particular installation nor does it keep track of whether the installation is still active or has been abandoned.

Unfortunately, AB 1549 wouldn’t do much about infrastructure installed by private companies. It only applies to conduit that Caltrans owns – not a trivial matter, to be sure – and as amended as a result of the committee hearing, it’ll only apply to new facilities installed in the future. But it’s a start.