Today, President Obama signed an executive order aimed at making broadband construction along federal roadways and properties as much as 90-percent cheaper and more efficient.
Currently, the procedures for approving broadband infrastructure projects on properties controlled or managed by the federal government — including large tracts of land, roadways and more than 10,000 buildings nationwide – vary, depending on which agency manages the property. This new executive order, the White House says, will help ensure agencies charged with managing federal properties and roads take specific steps to adopt a uniform approach for allowing broadband carriers to build networks on and through those assets, and to speed the delivery of connectivity to communities, businesses and schools.
"Building a nationwide broadband network will strengthen our economy and put more Americans back to work," the President notes. "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."
According to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, “This executive order is also an example of how we can make government more efficient. It creates a process for streamlining and harmonizing federal regulations and standardizing contracting. The result will be cost-savings for taxpayers and private industry.”
Adds American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka, "In the last decade, ACA members have been aggressively deploying broadband in smaller markets and rural areas, and these operators are continuously looking to make further investments in unserved and underserved areas. However, these opportunities for broadband deployment are far too often delayed or derailed because of the inability of ACA members to receive necessary or timely rights of way on reasonable terms, including over federal land.”
He continues, “The executive order signed by the President directs the federal agencies to facilitate access to federal land and facilities, which should stimulate broadband deployment by ACA members and help to strengthen the economy through increased private investment and job creation.”
What The Order Says
The executive order requires the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, Transportation and Veterans Affairs as well as the U.S. Postal Service to offer carriers a single approach to leasing federal assets for broadband deployment. It also requires that available federal assets and the requirements for leasing be provided on departmental Web sites along with requirements regarding public tracking of regional broadband deployment projects via the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard (for more information, click here).
The order also directs departments to help carriers time their broadband deployment activities to periods when streets are already under construction — an approach that could reduce network deployment costs along federal roadways by as much as 90 percent.
Comments ACA’s Polka, “ACA is also especially pleased with the executive order’s ‘dig once’ provision, which was based on a National Broadband Plan recommendation and a bill introduced by Congressman Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). ACA has long been a supporter of Rep. Eshoo’s broadband deployment bill because it reduces the cost of laying fiber-optic lines for ACA members and makes more efficient use of scarce road-construction dollars provided by taxpayers. As I’ve said before, it’s a true win-win for industry and the American public. We’re glad to see this concept incorporated in the executive order.”
But Wait, There’s More
In more White House news, nearly 100 partners, including more than 25 cities as well as corporate and non-profit entities, are joining with more than 60 national research universities to form a new public/private partnership called “U.S. Ignite.”
The U.S. Ignite Partnership reportedly will create a national network of communities and campuses with ultra-fast, programmable broadband services, operating at speeds as fast as 1 gigabit per second. This network will become a testbed for designing and deploying next-gen applications to support such national-priorities areas as education, healthcare, energy and advanced manufacturing.
“U.S. Ignite will challenge students, startups and industry leaders to create a new generation of applications and services that meet the needs of local communities while creating a broad range of job and investment opportunities,” an Administration release says. “This initiative will open up countless new opportunities for households and small businesses, helping them experience the economic and community benefits of next-gen applications while demonstrating a path for other communities to join.”
Among the commitments being announced today by participants in the new partnership:
>> Industry partners offer support to partnership: Global industry leaders including Cisco, Juniper, NEC and Hewlett-Packard are offering programmatic and in-kind support to communities while carriers like Verizon and Comcast are announcing new pilot cities on their network that will participate in U.S. Ignite.
>> New tools for communities: Non-profits like the Mott Foundation are working with the partnership to deliver new community programs, such as hack days and startup weekends, to accelerate the transition these applications into the marketplace.
>> National coalition of universities: The National Science Foundation (NSF) is committing $20 million to prototype and deploy new technologies to advance the development of ultra-high-speed, programmable broadband networks. That is in addition to the ~$40 million that NSF has invested over four years in the Global Environment for Networking Innovations (GENI) project, which currently connects more than a dozen universities with next-generation broadband connections. Built with the technological contributions of more than 300 NSF-funded researchers at more than 60 universities, GENI is already serving as a virtual laboratory and testbed for next-generation applications in healthcare, energy efficiency, education and other national priority areas.
>> Next-gen apps challenge to spur innovation: NSF and Mozilla Foundation, with support from the Department of Energy, are announcing a $500,000 design competition to develop applications for high-speed communities around the country.
>> Building on current broadband investments: Departments of Commerce and Agriculture are announcing their support for U.S. Ignite with more than six carriers that received funding for expanding their broadband networks while creating new community-based services.
>> Supporting military families and communities with new apps: Department of Defense is connecting military families on base with new US Ignite services while creating new research opportunities to students at West Point. HHS’s Beacon Community Program, starting with the Mayo Clinic, and the FCC’s Rural Healthcare Pilot Program are partnering with U.S. Ignite to provide such healthcare apps as remote surgical theatre and patient monitoring.