Building a 21st Century Broadband Superhighway

Building a 21st Century Broadband Superhighway
A Concrete Build-out Plan to Bring High-Speed Fiber to Every Community

Benjamin Lennett and Sascha Meinrath
New America Foundation
January 2009

A long-term approach to broadband investment seeking 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.