Google Fiber's Open Letter to State Broadband Leaders on Planning for BEAD and Future Deployment Efforts

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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Digital Beat

Google Fiber's Open Letter to State Broadband Leaders on Planning for BEAD and Future Deployment Efforts

Ariane Schaffer

Dear Broadband Leaders,

Google Fiber is pleased to submit the recommendations below for broadband leaders to consider as they structure their BEAD Five-Year Action Plans and Initial and Final Proposals.

Google Fiber is an Alphabet company that brings GFiber and GFiber Webpass internet services to homes and businesses across the United States. Our mission is to deliver fast, reliable, fairly priced, and open internet service—using the best technologies, methods, and people to accomplish that. We continue to develop better ways to build out internet infrastructure and are actively expanding our network in both our existing markets and in entirely new ones. Visit our website, at, to learn more.

Over the past decade, GFiber has launched gigabit-speed internet service in nearly 20 major metropolitan areas, setting a new standard for internet speeds, climbing to the top of industry rankings in customer satisfaction, injecting meaningful competition into a fossilized industry, and driving other providers to upgrade the speeds and service they offer their customers.

As a company that has long been a leader and innovator in broadband deployment and access, and one that believes that choice and competition in the broadband space create a rising tide that lifts all boats, we believe there are several infrastructure and deployment policies that will help broadband leaders achieve their goal of bringing affordable, high-quality internet access to all residents. Removing barriers for broadband deployment will help stakeholders bring connectivity to as many households as possible – more quickly and with less disruption.

The following six recommendations answer a straightforward question: What can state broadband leaders do right now to remove barriers for broadband deployment? We hope you will find these suggestions helpful as you continue to expand broadband access across your state.

1. Work with State 811 One Call Center to Address Locates Constraints

811 is the national phone number designated by the Federal Communications Commission that connects professionals and homeowners with their local One Call Center. In many states, the 811 One Call Center is a non-profit organization mainly funded by the member facility owners and managed by a board of directors. Their motto is “Call Before You Dig.”

Each state’s 811 center requires that all utility companies, and anyone else who has infrastructure in the ground, mark their assets before a new excavation project occurs in the same area. You might have seen orange or pink temporary paint on streets and sidewalks, or sometimes little marker flags in the softscape – these markings and other identifiers are part of what is known as the utility “locates” process. Locates are marked to protect public safety and avoid accidents that may result from new construction disrupting underground facilities like gas or water lines.

The current locates system is not designed to handle the vast amount of new project work anticipated in the next few years. Accordingly, to avoid delays and major problems, key stakeholders will need to develop new solutions. Given the workforce constraints across the industry, it is no surprise that there is also a shortage of locator personnel. It will be imperative to limit unnecessary locates as well as ensure locators are given additional time to prepare. We recommend updating the existing locates process to accommodate the increased construction activity and improving practices and processes to protect communities and maintain public safety. We suggest the following:

  • Discuss best practices with new deployers including the following:

    • Ask new excavators for regular participation with the Utility Coordinating Committee (UCC) meetings in the local areas where they are deploying. 

    • Ask the excavators coming into the state to take the state’s free 811 training prior to creating tickets. Every state has some kind of training in their specific laws, and with so many broadband deployers and sub-contractors crossing state borders to work, understanding the nuances should be promoted.

    • Suggest pre-construction meetings between operator/excavator and locators for large projects. Also encourage mandatory notifications from the operators/excavators to peer utilities/locators that establish paths and schedules through each leg of the project.

  • Encourage Data sharing between the State and 811.

    • In an effort to avoid delays, and before the commencement of construction, the State Broadband Office should share with the State’s 811 center the locations where publicly funded projects are going to be built. The State could even share this information before awards are announced since the location is what matters in the locates process, not who the broadband deployer is. This can be particularly important in rural areas where gas and water lines may be older, and the facility owner may need additional time to prepare to map the asset. With this location information, the State 811 can provide outreach to members within the communities where the work is taking place – providing a much-needed “heads up” to let smaller entities know what’s coming.

  • Consider using broadband funding to support the locates process. 

    • Consider grant funding for in-house locators in municipalities as well as for utilities that may see a temporary influx of infrastructure deployment. Small and rural utilities are likely to feel the most pressure. Also consider a standardized template for communities to use to ensure that the vendors they are hiring align with the state’s deployment goals.

  • Continue Partnerships between State 811 Centers and State Broadband Offices.

    • With the arrival of new construction crews coming in from other states, it is crucial that they know the best practices and how to safely operate in the state. 

    • Consider including a one-page summary written by the State 811 advising the winning recipients of the basic steps to ensure safe digging across the state. 

    • Consider a joint effort to modernize 811’s technology. Provide opportunities for network builders to "see," in real-time, all locate requests submitted and the status for each. Reporting chronic damagers would also be useful information for companies who make decisions about vendor hiring and risks associated with third-party projects.

    • Hold regular meetings between the State 811 and State Broadband Office to discuss ongoing broadband deployment rollout and best practices.

2. Streamline Permitting: Create Standardized Resources for Cities and Counties to Simplify the Permitting Process

Permitting is one of the biggest challenges to broadband deployment. Long and opaque permitting processes delay broadband deployment and are a disincentive for providers to come to your state. To streamline the permitting process, you can encourage (and possibly fund) efforts to:

  • Create an online one-stop shop for submitting permits.

  • Streamline the application, inspection, and review process. Urge local governments to identify a single point of contact within one department to coordinate all approvals. This will make it easier for broadband deployers to get the permits they need. 

  • Arrange regular meetings with broadband deployers to escalate concerns before they become issues. This will strengthen the partnership between communities and broadband deployers and help avoid problems for residents before they arise.

  • Support automatic online tracking tools to ensure all tracking on a single system. The system would include permits, inspections, traffic control specifications, and other city requirements. This will make it easier for broadband deployers and their vendors to adhere to all necessary requirements.

  • Distribute a model “requirements checklist” to local governments for them to use when broadband deployers try to engage. Insight into the entire process is critical.

3. Promote Broadband Choice and Competition for Multifamily Property Residents

Residents of apartment buildings are familiar with the “welcome folder” that greets them upon moving in: it contains information on trash and recycling pick-up, how to turn on the gas, and how to set up their internet. While there might be multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the building, residents are often presented with only one option—and this is no accident. A single ISP has likely paid a sizable amount to the building owner to ensure the residents are aware of only one option. This is often known as an exclusive marketing agreement.

Exclusive marketing agreements hurt consumers by limiting choice and disincentivizing competition. We urge state leaders to encourage transparency by restricting ISPs’ ability to implement these agreements when they have been awarded public funding. We encourage state leaders to create model agreements that ISPs and multifamily property owners can use that are free from these restrictions.

4. Assign a Designated State Official to Liaise with Cities on Broadband Build-Out

To help support cities, the state should designate a liaison to coordinate with cities on broadband build-outs, best practices in permitting, and guidance on navigating general challenges. Permits help ensure public safety by reducing potential hazards of unsafe construction. Each permit needs to be approved by the local permitting office and, right now, many municipal offices are understaffed and under-resourced. When permitting offices cannot keep up with the number of permits—as is often the case with city-wide deployments—they slow down construction.

5. Create and Promote a State and Local Government “Broadband Innovation Resource List” to Keep Cities and Counties Up to Date on the Latest Technological Developments

There are a number of deployment innovations that can be used to expand broadband access. Encourage communities in your state to consider innovative deployment processes and construction techniques, such as microtrenching, that speed deployment and cut construction time. Not every deployment method is the right fit for every community, so communities should ask the broadband deployer to see examples of past deployments and come prepared with questions. 

Supporting innovation can also include flexibility in building locations. This could mean having city officials available to meet a construction crew on short notice for a redesign approval. It will almost always be helpful to engage the city public works teams early, and promoting investment in faster networks that are built to last may require an “all of the above” deployment strategy.

6. Set up a State-County-City Task Force that Meets Regularly to Share Information and Troubleshoot Issues

This unprecedented effort to connect every household will require information sharing. A taskforce can discuss best practices, brainstorm solutions, and share timely updates.

Final Thoughts

To close the digital divide, we need close partnership among state broadband leaders, local governments, and broadband deployers. With historic investment in broadband deployment, partnerships will help meet immediate connectivity and affordability needs. But our goals are aligned – bring connectivity to as many households as possible, and as quickly as possible.

Ariane Schaffer serves as Public Policy and Government Affairs Manager for Google Fiber and has worked for the company since 2018. In this role, she focuses on broadband public policy, state and federal government relations, digital equity efforts, partnerships, and business expansion. Prior to joining Google Fiber, Ariane was Executive Briefer to the Governor of New York. A New Orleans native, Ariane holds a bachelor's degree from American University’s School of Public Affairs in Washington (DC) and currently lives in New York City. 

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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