Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mark Warner (D-VA) today called for immediate action on their legislation to promote more rapid and cost-effective expansion of broadband networks. In a letter to President Obama, Klobuchar and Warner called on the Administration to include their Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2011 in an upcoming Executive Order that the President announced in the State of the Union address to remove red tape for infrastructure projects. The legislation would require certain federal transportation projects to include the simultaneous installation of underground broadband conduit, helping to expand access to high-speed Internet for consumers and small businesses. In other words, “dig once.”
“Infrastructure development is not just about rebuilding our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges. It also means facilitating the deployment of 21st century technologies that are the infrastructure backbone of tomorrow,” Klobuchar said.“Our legislation will help ensure that high-speed broadband can be supplied as quickly and efficiently as possible, saving money and reducing unnecessary construction headaches.”
“The widest-possible deployment of broadband is a key to our nation’s future competitiveness around the world, and expanding the reach of high-speed Internet service also helps to level the playing field here at home, especially for rural regions of our country,”Senator Warner said. “It just makes sense to merge these two forms of infrastructure as we consider making some long-overdue investments in our nation’s roads and bridges.”
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90 percent of the cost of deploying broadband is for digging up and repairing the road. That means it is 10 times more expensive to add broadband after a road is already built than to install it in the first place. Broadband conduits are the “pipes” which house tiny fiber-optic cables that carry high-speed, high-capacity communications.
Senators Klobuchar and Warner introduced the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act in 2011 which would require states to simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects. The legislation would include projects such as building a new highway or adding a new lane or shoulder to an existing highway. The legislation allows this requirement to be waived when the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Communications Commission determine that the conduit is not necessary. Last week, the Senators offered the legislation as an amendment to the Surface Transportation bill currently being considered on the Senate floor.
Klobuchar is a leader in Congress on promoting widespread broadband access and increasing America’s competitiveness in the global economy. She is a member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, and serves as chair of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion. Klobuchar wrote a letter earlier this year to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski urging the FCC to promote rural broadband deployment through reform of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which the agency subsequently adopted.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Mr. President;
As the nation continues to focus on policies to help move our economy forward, infrastructure investment must be an important part of our agenda. We appreciate your focus on rebuilding America, as a way to help people get back to work and ensure America can compete in the global economy.
Infrastructure development is not just about rebuilding our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges. It also means facilitating the deployment of 21st century technologies that are the infrastructure backbone of tomorrow, including high speed broadband networks. That’s why we introduced the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act, to require states to install broadband conduit as part of any federally-funded transportation project. Instead of tearing up a new road after construction to install communications lines, we should only “dig once.”
Incorporating a “dig once” policy into federally-funded transportation projects will not only promote broadband deployment and competition, it will also save taxpayer dollars. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that as much as 90 percent of the cost of deploying broadband conduit is for digging up and repairing the road. The Federal Communications Commission has also recognized the value of this concept by including “dig once” as a recommendation in the National Broadband Plan.
As your Administration considers ways to expedite infrastructure projects, we urge you to work with us to include a common-sense “dig once” policy for federally-funded transportation projects.