We've previously written about the Obama administration's support for a simple idea that could dramatically boost private investment in next-gen Internet networks, potentially leading to faster broadband speeds and better prices. Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to bring that notion to fruition in Congress.
The concept is known as "dig once," and what it basically says is that when a city decides to dig up a street for repairs or construction, it should take that opportunity to lay down an extra pipe that can carry high-speed fiber optic cables or other broadband conduits. Doing so prevents having to dig up the same street multiple times whenever another company wants to lay down new Internet infrastructure.
This isn't the first time that lawmakers have tried to roll out a national dig-once policy. A 2012 executive order from the White House also tried to do the same thing. But Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.) are hoping that their latest effort, a bill announced Thursday known as the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2015, will vastly expand the nation's commitment to dig once — and this time, they are starting off with 26 other House sponsors.
One key difference between this proposed legislation and previous attempts? It requires that a new pipe for Internet cables be installed if a construction project both receives federal funding and surveys indicate that the next 15 years could lead to a demand for broadband in the project's vicinity.
If this two-pronged test works, residential and commercial streets all over the country could wind up having these conduits installed automatically as federally funded construction projects discover that nearby homes and businesses would benefit from the extra pipe.
"Today our information highways are just as important as our interstate highways," Eshoo said in a statement. Walden added that the legislation would help spread the benefits of the Internet more widely as it increasingly becomes "the critical backbone of our digital economy."
Eshoo had introduced similar dig-once legislation in 2009 and 2011.