David Kirkpatrick

January 22, 2009

Building a broadband superhighway

The New America Foundation has an interesting position paper out on utilizing some of the infrastructure stimulus spending. Interesting and at first glance looks like a great idea for a number of reasons.

This is from an email sent by the think tank:

Last Friday the New America Foundation hosted a debate on proposals to spur investment in broadband in the upcoming economic stimulus bill. There were clear differences on how best to encourage investment and the merits of placing conditions on federal subsidies, which you can view at the video highlights below.

New America also released a paper by Benjamin Lennett and Sascha Meinrath, focusing on a long-term approach to broadband investment. Building a 21st Century Broadband Superhighway seeks to leverage federal spending on traditional infrastructure (road, bridges and possibly railways) to create a fully interconnected, public access fiber infrastructure to bring high-speed connectivity to nearly every community.

The hundreds of billions that will be spent over the next few years to rebuild the nation’s crumbling transportation infrastructure provide a unique opportunity for the U.S. to extend critical middle-mile fiber connections, at an incremental cost to taxpayers. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90 percent of the cost deploying fiber in public rights of way along roadways is associated with digging up and repairing the road to install the buried fiber. Thus, the U.S. has a tremendous opportunity to leverage the construction, repairing, and upgrading of the nation’s infrastructure that will already occur to deploy fiber at a fraction of the cost of typical deployments. 

The paper calls for the federal government to fund and mandate the installation of conduit and high-capacity, dark fiber bundles along all federally-subsidized and direct federal highway projects. The approach offers a cost-effective and sustainable means to build the middle-mile wholesale fiber links necessary to facilitate high-speed broadband deployment by all providers; creating a foundation for universal and affordable broadband access, improving competition, increasing speeds and lowering prices.   

You can download a copy of the paper at:
http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/building_21st_century_broadband_superhighway .

And this is the conclusion of the paper:

The Interstate Highway System and broader National Highway System serve as the backbone of transportation and commerce in the United States. A 21st Century Broadband Superhighway would serve as the backbone for communication and commerce in the 21st century.  Given the nation’s current woeful standing in terms of broadband adoption, availability, speeds, and prices compared to other developed nations, a dramatic intervention is necessary to maintain U.S. technological and economic competitiveness. 

It was federal leadership and funding that helped build ARPANET and NSFNET, the research networks that served as the foundation for the Internet. Once again, it will take a national effort to regain our technological standing.  The U.S. needs a sustained broadband build-out effort that brings the necessary infrastructure to communities across the country and provides the speeds and capacity to meet, not just the communication needs of today, but the demands of tomorrow.  Mandating and funding the deployment of high-speed, open access fiber bundles along all Federal-aid highway and direct Federal highway projects offers a cost-effective and sustainable means to achieve these goals, bringing high-speed connectivity to nearly every community and providing the foundation for universal, affordable access to high-speed broadband.

 

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