Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee say the nation could save time and money by laying down broadband pipes when building federal highways.
They introduced legislation Tuesday that would require contractors to place plastic pipes during the construction of federal highways for the fiber-optic cable lines used to provide broadband Internet access.
The bill was introduced by Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee ranking member Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and co-sponsored by Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and other members of the committee. They offered a similar bill in the last Congress.
"This legislation is a creative approach to more rapidly deploy broadband service, promote competition, and do so with limited federal dollars," Eshoo said. "This 'dig once' policy would expand broadband at a fraction of the cost by including the conduit as roads are being built."
The lawmakers noted in a statement that the Federal Highway Administration has said it is 10 times more expensive to dig up and repair an existing road to lay fiber lines than to add them when a road is being built or repaired.
Despite being supported by key Energy and Commerce lawmakers, the bill will not be considered by that panel and has instead been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The Telecommunications Industry Association applauded the proposal, saying it's a commonsense way to help expand broadband that adds little to the cost of road construction.