President Obama will sign an executive order on Thursday that will require government agencies to work from a single set of guidelines when it comes to allowing broadband providers to build and maintain networks on federally owned land, roadways, and properties, the White House announced.
The goal is to reduce the cost of broadband building through the use of standard leases, best practices, and Transportation Department oversight designed to eliminate waste and duplicated construction work.
The order is just one piece of a raft of broadband initiatives set to be introduced at an administration event on Thursday, including the launch of a public-private collaboration dubbed the US Ignite Partnership that is charged with developing advanced applications for broadband in the areas of education, manufacturing, health, public safety, transportation, and clean energy.
“Building a nationwide broadband network will strengthen our economy and put more Americans back to work," President Obama said in a statement on Wednesday. "By connecting every corner of our country to the digital age, we can help our businesses become more competitive, our students become more informed, and our citizens become more engaged."
An array of government agencies with broadband assets and communications authority are rolling out projects under the US Ignite brand. They include the National Science Foundation, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the Rural Utility Service of the Department of Agriculture, and the Defense Department.
On the private-industry side, Verizon will test 300 megabits-per-second high-speed fiber connections in the Philadelphia market, the home base of rival Comcast. Cisco will be sharing its real-time videoconferencing tool TelePresence with the US Ignite effort. Juniper Networks, NEC, Comcast, HP, AT&T, and others have initiatives under the US Ignite banner.
The move was immediately hailed by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who was an early backer of the “dig once” policy with regard to broadband deployment on federal property, and who sponsored legislation that would have enshrined the plan in law.
“Much like my ‘dig once’ proposal, this executive order will help bring broadband to underserved communities nationwide and with limited federal investment. This is a commonsense idea, and I salute the administration for taking action,” Eshoo said in a statement.
On the private-sector side, the Telecommunications Industry Association endorsed the move, saying it would provide important savings on the cost of building the “middle-mile” network infrastructure.
Grant Seiffert, president of TIA, said, “Timely access to federal lands, buildings, and highways is vital to reaching underserved areas and to deploying the broadband infrastructure of tomorrow. In particular, the development of ‘dig-once’ policies by the Department of Transportation is a common-sense initiative that will greatly reduce the costs of deploying broadband infrastructure.”