During the never ending process of constructing, and repairing roads and highways in Arizona, the ground must be dug up and prepared for installation of the new road surface.
At that time, it's relatively easy, and very cost effective for additional minor trenching to be done, to accommodate the installation of fiber-optic conduit that is used to transport broadband.
Clearing the way
Another big factor involved in the laying of cables, is considering what might be discovered underground, such as archaeological ruins, where the Broadband cables need to go.
There are other things that can be dug up during the installation process including; water and sewer pipes, other cables; any of which can stop a project cold. And in fact, in much of Arizona, especially cities like Phoenix, the problem of dealing with ancient archaeological ruins is a very common occurrence.
During the design phase of building a road, all of these issues must be taken into account. If the permitting processes allowed for it, the installation of fiber conduit could essentially get a free ride during the road's construction or repair process; because these problems would have already been dealt with by the road contractor.
Laying fiber along rural highways, to bring "middle-mile" broadband capacity to remote communities throughout Arizona and sharing that capacity among "last-mile" providers would make it much more economically attractive for them to serve or to expand services in these remote communities.
However, current land use statutes, policies, rules, and laws at all levels of government, largely restrict taking full advantage of this "Two Highways For The Cost Of One" proposition.
Very high-capacity fiber-optic cables are required to connect each community back to the global Internet at broadband speeds. These connections into communities are often referred to as "middle mile" connections.
They supply the large capacity needed within each community for re-distribution by "last mile" broadband Internet providers to individual homes and businesses. In some circumstances, high capacity microwave radio technology can be used, instead of fiber, for short distance "middle-mile" service.
The Digital Arizona Program will coordinate efforts among all stakeholders to promote ways these barriers to low-cost rural "middle-mile" capacity can be lessened or removed.
Digital Arizona Highways Act of 2012
This act was passed by the Arizona legislature with a 95% yes vote and signed by the Governor in 2012. The act provides for changing the definition for transportation for the Department of Transportation to include the transportation of information as well as people and goods over the State's highway system. The intention of the act is to allow state highway rights of way to be made available for fiber construction at cost. The act requires no general funds but is designed to encourage private sector investment in the construction of new "middle-mile" fiber infrastructure, especially in rural areas of the state.