We Could Learn a Lot From Arizona: Aggregating Highway Rights of Way for Middle Mile Fiber Optic Cable
Arizona provides a shining example of how Colorado could aggregate existing resources to improve the broadband environment for rural and remote communities across the state. As the demand for digital Internet speed increases exponentially, many of Arizona’s rural residents and businesses found they either did not have high capacity digital services available at all, or the available services did not provide sufficient capacity to support new video intensive Internet services such as eLearning, Tele-Health, Telework and IPTV, etc. These shortcomings have been limiting factors in the availability of jobs, educational opportunities, public safety and healthcare services in such areas. The passing of Senate Bill 1402 in 2012 allows for the spread of significantly higher-speed broadband access to citizens statewide, accelerating economic growth, education, public safety, healthcare, and digital government in Arizona.
Specifically, the bill expands existing rules governing Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) management of state rights of way (ROW) to include transportation-of–information as well as vehicles. When funding is provided to ADOT, from a fund to be managed by the Digital Arizona Project, ADOT will be requested to bury multiple empty fiber-optic conduits along specified state highways-using existing ROW wherever possible. These multiple separate conduits will be leased to broadband providers by the Project on a cost recovery basis. Providers must contract to install fiber before conduits are constructed. The outcome of the Project will be streamlined access to the ROW at significantly lower costs to providers for constructing long distance digital capacity to reach rural communities. These lowered costs are expected to encourage new investments by provider’s thereby accelerating and improving availability of high-capacity digital services in poorly served areas of Arizona. It is expected to take a number of years to fully implement this program throughout the rural areas of the state.