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New Highway Legislation Paves the Way for Broadband

An 8-year-old plan to bring broadband internet to underserved areas is making a comeback in Congress, and it's got some surprising supporters.
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fiber internet

Federal legislation that promises to increase rural access to broadband internet appears to have a rosy outlook. Originally proposed by California Democrat Anna Eshoo in 2009, the so-called "dig once" policy would "mandate the installation of fiber conduits during federally funded highway projects," according to Ars Technica.

As the title of the legislation suggests, the advantage of these projects comes in the form of savings on future digging. Although the highway conduits may not be immediately fitted with broadband fiber, there won't be a need for expensive construction projects dedicated solely to creating space for fiber.

Here's everything you need to know about this promising policy.

No More Stalling

Though it stalled in 2009, Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn put the proposal on the agenda for a hearing with the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, which she heads.

SEE ALSO: What Should You Do About the Cloudbleed Data Leak?

Indeed, the idea seems to have bipartisan support. Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, said he was glad to see the legislation making a reappearance, and FCC chairman and Republican Ajit Pai has also voiced his support.

Bipartisan Support

In the past, much of the opposition to "dig once" practices has come from large telephone and cable companies (and sympathetic Congressional officials), which typically build their own infrastructure. These companies would prefer smaller competitors not have access to freely available conduits. However, time appears to have changed those opinions.

In the past, much of the opposition to 'dig once' practices has come from large telephone and cable companies, which typically build their own infrastructure.

CTIA, an advocacy group that represents the nation's largest mobile carriers — including AT&T and Verizon Wireless — has come out in support of "dig once." Plus, Steven Berry, CEO for Competitive Carriers Association, who represents nearly 100 smaller wireless carriers, told Congress that it's time to "establish 'dig once' policies, once and for all."

A Nationwide Information Highway

Already the law of the land in cities like Boston and San Francisco, the implementation of "dig once" could mean the introduction of broadband to rural areas that might otherwise remain underserved.

SEE ALSO: How to Speed Up Your Internet Connection

With people increasingly relying on the internet for everyday tasks like banking and shopping, a nationwide fiber network seems inevitable. It's no wonder that ISPs are now getting on board, as federally funded conduits will save them money in the long run.

What do you think, readers? Would you like to see the government get behind fiber internet? Or do you think ISPs should keep providing their own infrastructure? Sound off in the comments below!


Senior Staff Writer

Stephen has been writing for such national and regional publications as The Village Voice, Paste, The Agit Reader, and The Big Takeover for 20 years, and has been covering consumer electronics and technology for DealNews since 2013.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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9 comments
HowardaC
@michelhawaii

Yup..... "We've revoked most of your civil liberties and put in place legislation that will destroy the environment even more than it already is... but hey... you get broadband!"
liuite
mach5jeep, obviously you've never heard of encryption or VPN.
michelhawaii
Well... surprise surprise.... Who knew. Now the Net Neutrality is dead, more people to be connected, more DATA those internet company can sell! It's... a.... no....brainer.
Superdeal247
As the BabyBoomers reach retirement, they favor moving out of the hubbub of the city and out to the rural areas for a peaceful retirement. Access to the IoT is just as important to them. The current providers don't want to invest in the infrastructure as they see more profitability in the more highly concentrated urban area. I support "dig once" and let the corporate providers finance it with use fees.
mach5jeep
I'll never trust 5G. It's too easy to spoof wireless signals. Local police departments are already spoofing your phone signals with stingray devices.
liuite
Soon the last mile, even in the urban environment, could be wireless (5G). This creates more competition between phone/cable providers and newcomers to drive down the price.
emmayche
The problem with depending upon wireless is the "scare resource" problem; there is only one wireless spectrum, and it's getting pretty full.

When you have fiber, EACH INDIVIDUAL FIBER has an ENTIRE spectrum of its own, not shared with any other fiber.

Yes, there are good reasons to use wireless/cellular technology in certain applications; basic infrastructure is almost never one of them. (And I speak as a 45-year veteran of the computer industry, as well as an amateur radio operator. I know how both radio and fiber work.)
Ardbeg
boilers, in terms of getting high(ish) speed Internet to individual rural ("underserved," etc.) homes and businesses, wireless may be the way to go in terms of efficiency and flexibility. But right now, many cell towers outside of dense population centers and wealthy areas only have 2G/3G (if that), and/or only have a mishmash of carriers from one neighborhood to the next with reliable Internet service (so I can't split an account with Grandma 3 miles away). The cost of running the high-speed cable to the towers is a bigger obstacle than the transmission equipment (indeed, many towers already have 4G-capable transmitters, but they're disabled because the lines can't support 4G speeds).

A high-volume fiber trunk going to these areas would still be helpful, at which point a combination of cell and wired carriers could decide the most efficient way to distribute it to the consumer level.
boilers
I would think some form of wireless/cellular internet would be more economical for government encouraged infrastructure.