Broadband Communities

MAR-APR 2019

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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BROADBAND POLICY 5 2 | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 9 Thinking Creatively About Broadband Infrastructure To encourage new, local broadband providers, consider easing the regulatory burdens that make starting a new broadband venture costly. By Tom Sloan M any Americans remain without broadband because no provider can afford the financial and regulatory costs of developing the necessary infrastructure. ese residents of broadband deserts generally live in areas in which large incumbent telecommunications companies provide telephone service. Most independent telephone companies throughout the United States have deployed broadband to their customers. Broadband deployment costs are generally cited as the primary reason rural areas remain underserved. Nonfinancial steps can significantly contribute to facilitating deployment by reducing regulatory hurdles that necessitate duplicative infrastructure corridors. ere are many potential small broadband providers – notably, but not exclusively, public utilities – capable of serving rural residents but that may lack the resources to acquire the necessary easements, regulatory approvals and infrastructure. At least two options come to mind, though both may require state legislative approvals. EXTEND EASEMENTS AND FRANCHISES Rural water districts, rural electric cooperatives, investor-owned electric companies and natural gas pipeline operators all have easements, infrastructures and, in many cases, franchise agreements. Such documents and investments may state that only the original service (such as water or electricity) is authorized. If one of those utilities wishes to provide broadband or partner with a broadband provider, each easement and franchise agreement will need to be renegotiated. at is a daunting task. e result is that rights-of-way and infrastructure are underutilized. For example, the rural water district whose board of directors I chair has several hundred miles of private easements wide enough for the district to park vehicles on when it needs to repair a water leak. e district also has aboveground infrastructure, such as water towers. Natural gas pipeline operations are similar, and electric utilities have even more aboveground infrastructures on their easements, many of which are in public rights-of-way. A change in statutes permitting utilities to offer broadband services to their customers, or partner with other companies to offer them, would negate the need to renegotiate every easement and franchise agreement. Such legislation would necessarily include language protecting landowners and directing that franchise payments and any easement payments be made. e state of Indiana enacted similar legislation in 2017. INSTITUTE STATEWIDE STANDARDS More than a decade ago, the large telecommunications providers secured legislative approval to enable statewide video franchises in several states. Instead of needing

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