Conduit Bill A Good Example of “Mindful” Federal Policy

June 16, 2009 , , , ,

Last week, we filed comments in the FCC's open Notice of Inquiry on what to put in the National Broadband Plan. Among other things, we called for a “mindful” federal (and state and local) policy that looked to leverage opportunities to advance broadband deployment and adoption as part o our policy efforts generally and not just in its own little “broadband” pigeonhole.

The Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2009 (BCPA) is an excellent example of what we mean by “mindful” federal policy. Introduced on the House side by Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) and cosponsored by Reps Waxman (D-CA), Boucher (D-VA) and Markey (D-MA) some months back, this New America Foundation Press Release indicated that Senators Klobuchar (D-MN), Lincoln (D-AR) and Warner (D-VA) will introduce a companion bill in the Senate. If passed, the BCPA would mandate that whenever states use federal highway funds to build or improve roads, they also include a conduit for pulling fiber and (if technically feasible) deploying wireless equipment. This eliminates the need to tear up a road whenever someone wants to pull fiber — dramatically lowering cost, spurring deployment, and enhancing competition by making it easier for competing players to lay their own fiber. The Act requires coordination with the FCC, so this should all, hopefully, feedback into the National Broadband Plan — particularly the National Broadband Map and other data collected to indicate our existing and future national needs.

This takes advantage of the fact that once you've torn up the concrete, you might as well take advantage of that and make it so that we don't have to tear up roads or landscape for future build out. It's a little thing, but its amazing how being “mindful” of even small opportunities like this can add up to an effective national broadband policy. Hopefully, this bill can serve as a model for other government build projects, such as adding conduits to public housing or other federal construction funds.