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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

FHWA Publishes Final Rule to Promote Broadband Access in Underserved Communities

Monday, December 6, 2021

FHWA 20-21
Contact: Nancy Singer
Tel: (202) 366-0660

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration  published a new Broadband Infrastructure Deployment final rule that will allow for the installation of broadband during road construction projects, alongside other utilities, to avoid the need for further excavation in the future. Often referred to as “dig once,” this approach can minimize cost and disruption to the traveling public.

“Broadband has become as important today as electricity was in the early-mid 1900’s, and like our predecessors back then, the Biden-Harris Administration will ensure that all Americans - from our cities to our rural counties - have access,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “By allowing broadband to be installed at the same time as other road improvement projects, we will reduce disruptions to residents, make better use of taxpayer dollars, and deliver economic opportunities to communities. I’ve seen the commonsense benefits of the ‘dig once’ principle as mayor and am pleased to support them now as Secretary.”

“The new broadband rule will promote digital equity for Americans in underserved communities,” Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said. “Broadband capability can greatly level the playing field and improve the quality of life -- by allowing remote work and access to education, health care and other services and opportunities from home.”

Highway rights-of-way are commonly used to accommodate public utilities, such as phone lines, electrical lines and pipelines. Expanding their use to include wireless broadband technology is a critical next step in advancing connectivity in disadvantaged and rural communities that lack such capability.

State departments of transportation will be required to identify broadband utility coordinators and establish a process to register broadband entities. States will coordinate telecommunications and broadband planning with transportation and land use planning to develop strategies that minimize repeated excavations.

Overall, the rule will improve coordination processes and reduce inefficiencies during highway construction, making it easier to deploy broadband infrastructure. 

The final rule appears in today's https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-12-03/pdf/2021-26231.pdf.

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