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.

About Harold Feld

Harold Feld is Public Knowledge’s Senior Vice President and author of “The Case for the Digital Platform Act,” (Public Knowledge & Roosevelt Institute 2019) a guide on what government can do to preserve competition and empower individual users in the huge swath of our economy now referred to as “Big Tech.” Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler described this book as, “[...] a tour de force of the issues raised by the digital economy and internet capitalism.” For more than 20 years, Feld has practiced law at the intersection of technology, broadband, and media policy in both the private sector and in the public interest community. Feld has an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, a law degree from Boston University, and clerked for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Feld also writes “Tales of the Sausage Factory,” a progressive blog on media and telecom policy. In 2007, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin praised him and his blog for “[doing] a lot of great work helping people understand how FCC decisions affect people and communities on the ground.”