'Dig Once' Policies
One way to reduce costs is to install conduits – narrow pipes with no actual fiber optic cable housed within – during local construction projects. The county, city or town can install fiber optic conduits with minimal financial investment while upgrading or repairing water or sewer pipes or repairing or building roads and sidewalks, for example.
The conduit itself is relatively inexpensive, so installing conduits for later use can save providers literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction costs.
Otherwise, the broadband provider must usually dig trenches or bore through soil to lay install conduit, an extremely expensive endeavor, especially in western North Carolina, where providers often must bore through granite to install fiber.
We recommend notifying and working with interested providers to ensure that the providers would use the conduit or cables.
Many providers will only use cables they install. If the local government is not familiar with engineering standards, the local government could contract with a provider to install conduits that can be used by others. In addition to installation, the local government will need to work out who is responsible for mapping the location of the conduit and maintenance. These issues can be worked out in a service-level agreement or service-level management agreement.
County or municipal policymakers could also require developers to include fiber optic cables as they install utility infrastructure in new residential or business construction. “Dig once” policies provide ready-made buried conduits, enabling future providers to more easily and cheaply install fiber by threading it through existing conduit.
This paper focuses on the most impactful form of this policy: governments installing conduits whenever there is underground construction in the public right of way – whether that construction is for installing new utility equipment, repairs or road work. To distinguish it from other types of dig once policies, we call this approach “dig smart.” This paper lays out the benefits of dig smart, how to implement dig smart and the practical implications of dig smart.
This resource is a memo submitted by the Broadband Infrastructure Office proposing a dig once policy to increase broadband infrastructure access for residents and businesses by lowering capital costs incurred by internet service providers by aligning N.C. Department of Transportation road projects with broadband deployment projects.