If You Must Dig Up A Highway... You Might As Well Install Infrastructure For Fiber Optic Cables

from the makes-sense dept

Wired broadband is often compared to the highway system, in that both are "natural monopolies" in that it often doesn't make sense to build competing setups, since you really only want one massive infrastructure product. With highways, you don't want to rip up too many parts of the country, and with broadband you don't want to let every company get rights of way to dig up everyone's yard. However, some politicians are pushing a rather simple, and totally reasonable plan that says if someone is already building or modifying a highway with federal funds, then they should also run conduit for fiber optic cables (they don't have to run the fiber themselves, just install the conduit). The idea -- and this makes a surprising amount of sense -- is that if the road is already being dug up, why not put conduit for future fiber there, rather than having to redig up areas to run fiber in the future. Sensible thinking from government officials? How much do you want to bet this goes nowhere?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 6:37pm

    Good, except that fiber should not be a monopoly business.

    I have a hard time to figure you out sometimes. You go on and on about how bad it is to have monopolies on the last mile of internet service, yet you have no problem granting a monopoly on all the other miles?

     

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    Deja vu all over..., Jun 16th, 2009 @ 7:11pm

    The real question is who will get it

    I think they will do it, build the infrastructure with public funds, then turn around and give it to someone (my money is on AT&T) to exploit, with all kinds of guarantees to keep it open and make it available to competitors, and all the good stuff. Except for the really small print and the loopholes, so that after a few months, AT&T will make its own rules, and the CEO will be ranting about the companies who make money while using 'his' pipes for 'free.'
    The funny thing is that the lawmakers know it, the FCC knows it, the Telcos know it, and the taxpayers still won't get it.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 7:15pm

    If it's being done with federal funds then they should automatically allow ANYONE to provide broadband service. That way there can be lots and lots of competition. If someone provides services at a price that's too high then someone else is free to provide service at a lower price. They all use the same "highway" to provide the service. The government should NOT grant monopolies.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 7:17pm

    Re: The real question is who will get it

    It's like with drugs these days, the government funds R&D and private firms are granted monopolies.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 7:18pm

    Re:

    That's not what he said. He said "that it often doesn't make sense to build competing setups" not that it doesn't make sense to allow competitors to compete on the same infrastructure.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 7:21pm

    No! We can't have this!

    There's several reasons why this won't work:

    1) As #2 said, who would be entrusted to maintain this publicly-funded infrastructure? Is it leased? Explain how this works.
    2) Surely some company has a patent on the conduit idea. It makes too much sense, why hasn't it been done before?
    3)He Man died years ago. And we don't have congresscritters that would push it thru to the end.

     

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  7.  
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    Matt Tate (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 7:23pm

    I think this was Google's idea...

    Google suggested this in bullet #1 of this blog.

     

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  8.  
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    Paul Brinker (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 8:02pm

    Idealy we need almost a department setup to handle public IT infistructure with the ability of force of law to put stuff like this in place because a fiber run going under the freeway is not that bad of an idea.

    Then have a group of people who know there shit running it. but this will never happen because local fiber monopolys will sue that this is breach of contract like thay did with the town that wanted to do the same thing.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 8:16pm

    Re:

    State laws override federal laws, something that's illegal in a contract is void.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 8:17pm

    Re: Re:

    Err, meant to say State law overrides local law (not State law overrides Federal law). Federal law that involves interstate commerce override state law, the internet involves interstate commerce.

     

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  11.  
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    Paul Brinker (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 8:30pm

    True, but then a bunch of telcos will sue for loss of profit/value due to the gov taking away there advantage.
    In addition the law only says conduit needs to be added to highway jobs, not fiber, or does it regulate the use of the fiber thus telcos will try to take all the money and run.

    My 2nd question is someone going to pay off a town to not get there highway redone just to keep fiber from geting put in? or will the law allow for metro areas force a bridge to be built in areas where the conduit has not been run yet.

     

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    Javarod, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 8:31pm

    Well, it'd never fly in Phoenix, this is the city that after widening Camelback Rd from 107th Ave to 99th Ave promptly went back and tore up the new road for utility work less than a month later. Now Glendale, this might work, just look at the forever project on 67th Ave, i think its been going for a year now, but i must admit, i'm impressed. Utility work, new medians in spots, and as needed new curbs and sidewalks, as well as repaving the whole road. Now that's how it should be done, everything done in one shot and hopefully it'll last for a long time.

     

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  13.  
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    Rick, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 8:43pm

    Happens all the time

    While it may not be happening on a federal level, local communities regularly put down conduit for fiber.
    My home town is doing it right now as they replace the main street through town.

     

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  14.  
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    iyogi (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 8:52pm

    RE:

    If someone provides services at a price that's too high then someone else is free to provide service at a lower price. They all use the same "highway" to provide the service. The government should NOT grant monopolies.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 9:11pm

    Re:

    "True, but then a bunch of telcos will sue for loss of profit/value due to the gov taking away there advantage."

    The government owes them no such advantage. As such, they have no right to sue. Even if they sue they should lose quickly.

    Besides, states have sovereign immunity if they implement it.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 10:47pm

    Re:

    I have a hard time to figure you out sometimes. You go on and on about how bad it is to have monopolies on the last mile of internet service, yet you have no problem granting a monopoly on all the other miles?

    No, not a granting of a monopoly. A natural monopoly. The difference is important. And all we're saying here is having the CONDUIT. If you have that, then it's actually much easier to lay multiple lines without having to tear up things multiple times.

    And I never said that there's a problem ON the last mile of connectivty. The problem is with the monopoly OVER the last mile of connectivity. If we had a single line with competing providers I'd be happy. Right now we don't.

    It's the difference between competition at the infrastructure level and at the service level and it makes all the difference in the world.

     

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  17.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 11:02pm

    Re:

    installing fiber doesn't mean a monopoly. Separate issues.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 12:25am

    Re: I think this was Google's idea...

    No, actually, they point out that Rep. Anna Eshoo (Calif) suggested it. Why do I always run into failures in reading comprehension?

     

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  19.  
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    AJB, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 5:05am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Why do I always run into failures in reading comprehension?"

    Could be there's often writing disfunction that accompanies the reading comprehension failures. But maybe I'm wrong...

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 7:25am

    What does a road construction company know about installing a conduit? There would be additional costs (funded by taxpayers) and who pays for that? You have to buy the material and you probably have to dig up a different trench, as I can't imagine you would want it right under the road.

     

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  21.  
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    Whisk33, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 8:09am

    Who pays

    Being a utility Engineer my questions are this,
    Who pays for the additional cost of pipe conduit and installation?
    What other specifications are required? You mentioned multiple fiber cable capabilities, so is a 12inch conduit sufficient? what about a 24inch? PVC? HDPE? Ductile Iron? Do there need to be multiple access points along a length? Standard cable pull box spacing? Most highways have a right of way that extends beyond the road, why not simply install it in that area? Why the need of encroaching the roadway with all the additional hazards associated with it? I don't think this works across the country. Metro areas have less space available and this becomes much more profitable. But then why stop on only federally funded roads? Why not all roads?

     

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  22.  
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    Paul Brinker (profile), Jun 17th, 2009 @ 8:28am

    When my school was built every building was attached to conduit built right into our roads. This has saved the school millions in connecting new buildings because the conduit is ran right next to telcom and power and it costs vary little extra per new building to run all the required support items.

     

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  23.  
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    hegemon13, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 8:35am

    Re:

    I think his stance is that only one infrastructure is necessary, but that infrastructure should be neutral and allow competing services.

     

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  24.  
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    hegemon13, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 8:38am

    Re: The real question is who will get it

    No one will "get it" because there is nothing to "get." Read the article. They are installing conduit, NOT fiber. They are not building infrastructure using public funds. They are facilitating the construction of future infrastructure for whoever ends up building it. They are also saving a lot of taxpayer money. Who do you think subsidizes the cost when AT&T does have to tear up a highway to run a line?

     

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  25.  
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    Whisk33, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re: The real question is who will get it

    The pipe/conduit would still be considered infrastructure.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    Since the government is getting involved, as the roads are built in sections, each conduit will be on opposite sides of the road. :(

     

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  27.  
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    Vincent Clement (profile), Jun 17th, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    Re: No! We can't have this!

    2) Surely some company has a patent on the conduit idea. It makes too much sense, why hasn't it been done before?

    Many large cities have conduits where various telecommunication and electricity providers run their cables. Sometimes, storm sewers are utilized to carry those cables.

    Yes, because running a pipe below grade must be a unique idea that no one has thought of in the past thousand or so years and is worthy of protection.

     

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  28.  
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    teknosapien, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 3:02pm

    The probelm is

    that for a municipality to grant a right of way the road has to be worth improving(atleast in the northern places I worked and played). That being said most of them will do a quick repaving, not really fixing the issues with the road and then allow the requester to dig up the newly paved road with the stipulation that they road must meet certain requirements. ie all frost heaves must be dug down X feet and the base replaced with Y type of material.
    this was always thought by the municipalities as a way of getting their pound of flesh from say, the Cable company.
    So do I see this happening , no not really do to the financial aspect involved.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 4:29pm

    Wow... common sense in Washington, a rare guest indeed!

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2009 @ 5:53am

    I often wondered why they didn't put the fiber lines in the same trench as the power lines, get the lines underground and then you don't have to worry about trees taking out the lines.

    So I asked a fiber guy why don't they do that? He told me that cable guys don't like to put their wires near the power guys lines cause they don't want to get killed. Makes sense to me, when I look out my window I see the power line up in the air with the cable wire about 4 feet below the power line.

    How many times have we read (here) of a fiber guy setting someone's garage on fire because they drilled through someone's circuit box?

     

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  31.  
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    aiyanalunette (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    If your looking for restraint cables I recommend you use http://www.cmacable.com

     

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