U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has announced that two of his proposals to promote more rapid and cost-effective expansion of broadband networks will be advanced through an executive order to be signed by the president. The executive order, which is to be signed on Thursday, June 14, 2012, could make broadband construction along federal roads and within federally-owned buildings significantly more affordable and efficient.
Currently, the procedures for approving broadband infrastructure projects on properties controlled or managed by the federal government—including large tracts of land, roads and thousands of buildings across the nation—vary depending on which agency manages the property. This new executive order will ensure that 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 to speed the delivery of connectivity to communities, businesses, and schools.
“This executive order will help bring broadband to underserved communities across Virginia and the nation while saving both money and time with limited federal investment,” Sen. Warner said in the press release. “These are commonsense ideas, and I’m pleased the administration is moving forward with this initiative.”
“Building a nationwide broadband network will strengthen our economy and put more Americans back to work,” said President Obama in the press release. “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.”
The first Warner proposal, first advanced through legislation introduced with Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), authorizes the installation of small wireless base stations in all publicly accessible federal buildings in order to increase wireless coverage and free up essential commercial network capacity. Once enacted through the Executive Order, this initiative should help prevent dropped calls that can occur indoors and in rural areas due to poor cell phone coverage, while at the same time improving overall wireless network capacity by more effectively utilizing broadband wireless networks.
The second Warner proposal, first proposed through “dig once” legislation introduced with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), directs federal agencies to help carriers time their broadband deployment activities to periods when roads are already under construction. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90 percent of the cost of deploying broadband comes from the cost of digging up and then repairing the road. This means it is 10 times more expensive to add broadband after a road is already built than to install broadband “conduits” in the first place to house the tiny fiber-optic cables that carry high-speed, high-capacity communications.