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Dig Once Model Legislation

This white paper lays out various legislations and current policies that have been enacted in favor of Dig Once. These serve to build the foundation of importance this topic has on a national scale. Additionally, it allows interested prospects to gain ideas of different implementation options and be aware of the process of getting a policy approved. By informing the audience of the various benefits of Dig Once, such as immense cost savings and economic development, this paper aims to encourage states and local municipalities to execute a similar policy.

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Executive Summary

This white paper addresses the concept of Dig Once and policy implementations. It is intended to give insight to state and city officials, as well as field engineers in the telecommunications industry, who are interested in learning more about Dig Once policies and the advantages associated. It was written to acknowledge concerns and questions individuals and organizations may have about implementing a Dig Once policy. As data capacity demands grow and technology continues to advance, there is a need to preserve the land and maximize the space available in highway right-of-ways. There is also a push to close the digital divide by deploying fiber to more rural areas who are behind the times of technology.

This white paper lays out various legislations and current policies that have been enacted in favor of Dig Once. These serve to build the foundation of importance this topic has on a national scale. Additionally, it allows interested prospects to gain ideas of different implementation options and be aware of the process of getting a policy approved. By informing the audience of the various benefits of Dig Once, such as immense cost savings and economic development, this paper aims to encourage states and local municipalities to execute a similar policy.



The purpose of this paper is to discuss the benefits and advantages to implementing a Dig Once policy. The definition of Dig Once being used is “policies and practices that minimize the number and scale of excavations when installing telecommunication infrastructure in a highway right-of-way.” When referring to a Dig Once policy, the definition is “a policy that mandates inclusion of broadband conduit--plastic pipes which house fiber-optic communication cables-- during the construction of any road receiving federal funding.” There are various types and ways to enact a Dig Once policy, whether it be on a city, county or state level. These will be discussed throughout the paper.


Why Dig Once Policies Are Needed

Dig Once policies have several added benefits to states and communities, which will be discussed further in this paper. However, establishing some advantages up front allows for a better focus and application of the information. Some reasons to implement a Dig Once policy include a reduction in deployment costs, encouraging competition among internet service providers, and working to close the digital divide. Current policies in place focus less on direct deployment of fiber to communities, but by increasing the conduit that is available, telecommunications providers can more easily move into a town that was previously at a disadvantage.

Further, the implementation of Dig Once policies can advance government interests by:

  1. Ensuring fast and efficient deployment of telecommunication networks.
  2. Reducing costs by coordinating among departments and decreasing disruptions to the community and roads.
  3. Improving aesthetic beauty of neighborhood by undergrounding lines.

Dig Once policies can be used in a variety of ways, such as aiming to connect residents, businesses, and mobile cell sites. It can also save taxpayer dollars and maximize the space available in the right-of-way.


In this paper, right-of-way is defined as “any highway agency-owned or leased land that is most often used to create a clear zone or travel lane within a roadway.” It is important to note the right-of-way because any Dig Once policy must accommodate the overcrowded right-of-ways and be able to support changes to the infrastructure design. 


The Digital Divide

An additional purpose of this paper is to highlight secondary benefits of a Dig Once policy. One of these includes working to close the digital divide. The digital divide is defined as “the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern technology and communications and those that don’t.” Ideally, by Digging Once, conduit is being installed in more and more locations in the public right-of-way, encouraging competition, thus lowering the cost of broadband internet. Currently, the FCC estimates that 75 percent of households have only one option for providers offering average speed. Additionally, many state policies have declared that conduit needs to be buried to accommodate “reasonable anticipated” future demand, which will also work to close the digital divide as more and more people gain access to high-speed broadband internet. A more robust network also increases economic development and encourages community growth and creates a more qualified and connected workforce. While other initiatives are in place to close the digital divide, Dig Once policies work to deploy more conduit and fiber at a lower cost in more locations, thus getting the United States closer to allowing everyone to have access to reliable internet networks. 


About Dura-Line

Dura-Line, a leading global manufacturer and distributor, is transforming the structure of communication. Technology, data, and constant communication are more intertwined with our daily lives than ever before in human history. Dura-Line provides the essential infrastructure – conduit, FuturePath, cable-in-conduit, and accessories – to make this possible. Through our innovative product solutions and unparalleled customer insight, Dura-Line creates what connects us, serving a wide variety of markets including telecommunications, enterprise networking, energy, and transportation.


This section will establish some background on conduit and why its deployment is beneficial. It will cover a history of it, how it is used in the industry, and some products and installation methods that are common in Digging Once.


History of Conduit and Conduit Network Systems

Conduit has been around for several decades, gaining popularity particularly in the mid-19080s when fiber optic cable deployment was growing. These cables transmits signals for voice, video and data, making them a popular choice. They could be installed in lengths up to 30,000 feet with few splice points interfering with signal attenuation. However, these cables are much thinner than traditional cables and required more protection; thus, the conduit network system was born.

The conduit network systems available in that time were typically 3.5” to 6” in diameter, as they previous copper cables were much thicker and took up more space. Since the fiber optic cables were much smaller in diameter, the new conduit could be as small as 1” to 1.25”. These were installed in the larger ducts, creating a new method of deployment called MicroDucts. This is becoming common place of today. The method requires no additional methods or tools and maximizes the space that was already existing.


Industry and Uses of Conduit

Conduit is used to protect fiber cables that are installed underground, namely cables that are used in the telecommunications industry. Protection is essential during both installation and throughout the life of the cable. Fiber optic cables are used to provide data transmission at very quick speeds. The technology of the cable allows it to convert electronic signals carrying data to light, sending that through glass or plastic fibers, then converting the light back to an electronic form. There are multiple sizes of fiber available, affecting what size conduit can be used. By using conduit to protect the fiber cables, the cable stays protected from environmental elements, natural disasters, and from being crushed. There have been noted problems of conduit availability, adoption and utilization, as broadband access has historically been driven by private investors. However, with market innovations, access has improved considerably in the last decade. Fiber cables typically have a useful life of 20 to 25 years, while the conduit can last for 25 to 50 years.

There are many reasons conduit is the preferred protector of fiber cables. During installation, there are several reasons it is advantageous to be used:

  1. Easier installation, as it can be put in section by section between access points.
  2. Greater ability to accommodate the unexpected changes of a route.
  3. Helps reduce the cost of splice points and improve the fiber loss budget for the total system.
  4. Locatable conduit available, allowing the fiber cable to be constructed with only non-conductive dielectric materials. This creates easier access to the fibers.

The permanency of the pathway is also a big advantage of conduit. It allows for easy removal of damaged or outdated cable, the ability to increase capacity of traditionally tight spaces and can be re-routed easily.



MicroTechnology is a term that discusses new technologies like MicroDucts and MicroTrenching that take advantage of smaller spaces. As technology has advanced, both conduits and fibers have become smaller in size, leading to micro versions of existing technologies. By utilizing this technology when Digging Once, it is preventing future excavations, saving labor costs and increasing deployment speeds.


MicroDucts are a new evolution of conduits that are smaller in diameter, from 5mm to 27mm. Just like standard High Density Polyethene (HDPE) conduit, they house fiber cables with no additional tools or methodologies necessary. The benefit to using MicroDucts is that they can maximize space without comprising the fiber cables. In some cases, they are placed into existing empty conduits, which is a method called overriding. An added benefit is MicroDucts are future-friendly and can be installed empty to be filled with fiber cables at a later point in time, taking up less space than the standard conduit in the meantime. They also reduce construction costs and deployment time, as there is no future excavations necessary. Dura-Line’s MicroDucts are co-extruded with SuperSilicoreÔ that reduces friction during cable installations and hold up to 432 count fiber MicroCables. Typical Dig Once policies include the burial of empty conduit, and MicroDucts are the perfect option to bury to accommodate future demands.


 MicroTrenching is the placement of reduced diameter MicroDuct pathways into the utility space with reduced impact on the existing infrastructure. The traditional method of trenching was proving to be too expensive for rapid deployment of broadband infrastructure; however, with MicroTrenching, a cut in the ground is just large enough to hold conduit, making for cheaper installation costs. Other benefits of MicroTrenching include fewer road closures, completion taking one fifth of the time, one third of the cost, and far less manpower.

This method is used in a variety of applications, such as Fiber to the Home, long hauls, smart cities, and more. Common products used during installation include FuturePath Flex, FuturePath, locatable MicroDuct, or custom FuturePath. Due to the non-evasive nature of this trenching methodology, it is ideal when Digging Once and should be considered when creating a Dig Once policy. 



Right-of-ways, as defined in the introduction, are “any highway agency-owned or leased land that is most often used to create a clear zone or travel lane within a roadway.” Because of different service providers needing their own conduit pathways to place fiber, the right-of-ways have become overcrowded. As cities and infrastructure needs continue to grow, the conduit network systems need to, too. By maximizing the space available in existing conduits in the right-of-way with MicroDucts and MicroTrenching, these pathways are able to evolve as technology does. The right-of-way network systems must be flexible and easily upgradable; i.e. it must have enough pathways to accommodate growing needs in technology. This ultimately saves construction costs and allows cities and states to better serve the population.



FuturePath is a Dura-Line product that consists of two or more MicroDucts bundled in a single oversheath. With multiple configurations and customization options available, FuturePath is a great way to maximize space and install future-ready conduit network systems. It is installed just like a standard duct with no special equipment or tools required. When Digging Once, it is ideal for utilizing some of the pathways and leaving others empty for future upgrades needed. FuturePath is also accommodates moves, adds and changes with more ease than typical conduit,  particularly because of the empty pathways that are left in the initial burial. Dura-Line carries many variations of FuturePath that have been optimized for different cables, such as gas distribution, and installation methods, like FuturePath Aerial.

FuturePath is a very advantageous product when combined with Digging Once. Some of the key advantages are highlighted below:

  • Can hold smaller, higher fiber density MicroCables. 
  • Saves space in overcrowded right-of-ways. 
  • Requires fewer and smaller handholes. 
  • Reduces manpower and machine power needed for installation.
  • Reduces fuel consumption and gas emissions. 
  • Lowers material handling requirements. 
  • Lessens soil displacement. 
  • More efficient than traditional 2 inch, 1.5 inch, 1.25 inch standard conduits that were ideal for larger cables.



There are multiple ways conduit can be installed that is typically dependent on the type of project being completed. Installations highlighted here are often associated with Dig Once techniques or have found added benefits by making use of them.


Plow installations are a common method of conduit deployment. It can be used for single or multiple ducts and with products like FuturePath. It requires less handling of the duct and can be accessed in the future with handholes. It is often in long hauls, smart cities, fiber to the home and cellular applications.

Directional Boring

Directional boring is one of the most common and efficient ways of placing MicroDucts in residential and commercial areas. By Digging Once to create predetermined spacing intervals, this installation method is minimally disrupting. It is also useful when expanding or upgrading previously installed infrastructure. This quick deployment and less evading installation is great when setting up conduit network systems in residential areas.


Trenching is another installation method that can be used in conjunction with Dig Once. This is because by digging a trench once and burying spare conduit, the trench will never have to be re-excavated to upgrade or change the conduit network system. Additionally, more than one conduit can be installed in a trench, maximizing the space available. 


The process of installing smaller conduit within an old, existing conduit is called overriding. This is because the space that used to exist is being overridden in order to maximize it and allow more pathways to be placed. MicroDucts are the product used when applying this concept without having existing conduit in place. It is popular in Dig Once policies because it is saving the labor of extracting the existing conduit while also allowing for additional pathways to be placed to accommodate future growth and demand.


While aerial installations are not typical in Dig Once policies, it can be an alternative if the right-of-way is lacking space or the terrain makes it difficult to lay conduit underground. In these instances, Figure-8 Aerial FuturePath is used and attached directly to the poles. 


Fiber to the Home

Currently, there is a push for more direct deployment to the home, known as fiber to the home, as technology continues to evolve and increase in demand. By building multipath conduit network systems, different internet service providers (ISP) can come into the community. This encourages competition and leads to lower prices. It is also attractive for business in the area, as they have more freedom in choice, as well. This also prevents monopolization of larger companies and allows smaller, local telecommunication companies to afford the fiber. Additionally, the closer the fiber is to the residence, the better connectivity and speed the home has. This better quality internet appeals to residents moving into the area and keeps current residents happy at a low cost. Wireless technology may be used to connect to residences and businesses, as there can be cost savings associated.

Some Dig Once policies, such as in Loma Linda, California (highlighted later in the paper), have made a deal with developers that requires greenfield development to connect back to the city center. This allows for any future businesses that come along to have enough pathways to connect to whichever provider they prefer and guarantees faster speeds and higher data capacity. This technology meets the increasing demand of more data capacity and can easily be upgraded in the future.


Fiber Optic Sensing

Fiber optic sensing relies upon measurement of a small amount of light returned from pulses of laser light that traveled down the fiber cable in the opposite direction. This technology essentially converts the optical fiber into an infinite, or distributed, series of sensors.  The distributed sensing along the length can monitor vibration, temperature, or strain. Fiber optic sensing is growing in global importance relative to monitoring applications in many vertical markets, including railways, roadways, power cables, oil and gas wells, pipeline conditions, just to name a few. In addition, the technology provides both asset and perimeter security across multiple markets. Adoption and popularity is increasing with growing awareness as the benefits of fiber optic sensing are becoming realized. Given its monitoring abilities, it can provide significant added benefit to the already existing utility of fiber cable and accelerate market growth.

A fiber optic sensing system is comprised of the fiber cable in the conduit, an interrogator that reads real time signals off the cable, and intelligent monitoring software. This software presents a network operator with its analysis of what it is detecting and what it considers to be normal baseline background information. The intelligent software can distinguish between background noise and anticipated or recognized occurrences, and only triggers an alarm during abnormal events.

Distributed Acoustic Sensing

Distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) is one type of fiber optic sensing that provides intelligence for a range of markets and applications.[20] It monitors, detects, and classifies acoustic vibration patterns.[21] Small changes are identified from pulse to pulse and by changes in the interferometric signal.[22] Conduit pathways for optical fiber cables offer advantages that  include added protection, easier installations, flexibility, technology upgrades and added capacity for additional use and monetization. The combination of sensing technology with conduit pathway technology is increasing in vertical markets like security and asset integrity, pipelines and smart city applications. In consort with Dig Once policies, installing sensor technology gives more peace of mind regarding the  integrity of the cable and can save thousands of dollars from early detections of potential issues.

A research experiment conducted by Dura-Line and part evaluated the reliability of the sensing capabilities with “event stimuli” such as footsteps, nearby excavation, and leak simulation in conduit.[23] One of the main conclusions is that distributed acoustic sensing, a technology used for fiber sensing applications, works extremely well in commercial applications when a conduit system is deployed to protect the fiber optic cable.  The webinar presenting the results can be found at




 There have been numerous attempts at passing legislations requiring Dig Once policies; however, none have become mandated bills. Rather, they serve as inspiration that, when paired with the Federal Mandate, allow cities, counties, and states to better execute their own policies. This section will review the governing bodies, the goals of the legislation, and the various acts and legislations that have attempted to pass in the United States.

Federal Communications Commission 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is a regulatory agency that monitors and regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable throughout the United States, its territories, and the District of Columbia.[24] Since conduit installments carry fibers that transmit internet signals, it fosters its own opinions and recommendations on Dig Once policies. Broadly speaking, it believes that state policies need to require contractors to install spare fiber and empty conduits as is necessary for a reasonably anticipated future demand. However, officials have also stated that they would support a policy that required the feasibility and need for broadband conduit to first be evaluated as a part of the construction process.[25] Doing so would limit the potential of unused conduit, but not support future growth needs.

The FCC’s National Broadband Plan works to encourage broadband deployment and suggests that Congress enacts a federal Dig Once policy for all federally funded highway projects in the public right-of-way.[26] Additionally, this plan recommends that federal financing of highway, road, and bridge projects from the USDOT be reliant on states and localities allowing joint deployment of conduits.[27]


U.S. Department of Transportation

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) works to provide the safest, most efficient modern transportation system that improves the quality of life while increasing the productivity and competitiveness of American workers and businesses.[28] Since it determines public right-of-ways and approves construction, it is a key player in the discussion of Dig Once policies.

The DOT has expressed support for a Dig Once policy, though worry that any formal declaration of a policy dictating broadband deployment would be outside its scope of expertise.[29] However, current regulations do allow for fiber optic cables to be run along right-of-ways.[30] Additionally, it is the DOT’s belief that any federal policy for federally-funded projects would affect only a small percentage of the nation’s roadways, as many are state owned.[31] Due to these concerns, the DOT believes that rather than a formal policy, the DOT and FCC should act as facilitators to help states create broadband deployment policies.[32]

Federal Highway Administration

A part of the DOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) controls the construction, maintenance and preservation of highways, bridges, and tunnels, while also conducting research to improve the safety, mobility, and innovation of the roads.[33]

When a state does decide to enforce a Dig Once policy, it must be approved by the FHWA. Once it is, any utility installation for federal highway that follow do not require FHWA approval, so long as it maintains the agreed upon state policy.[34] In terms of funding, federal funding is provided to the states by the Federal Aid Highway Program (FAHP).[35] The FAHP receives the money through the Highway Trust Fund and funds 43 percent of total highway spending and 50 percent of highway projects with some kind of utility work.[36]

National Highway System

The National Highway System comprises the Interstate System and other systems to support the economy, mobility and defense of the nation.[37] It comprises of 40.5 million miles of road, 75 percent which are locally owned, 20 percent state owned, and three percent federally owned.[38] The Interstate System is made of 46,720 miles of highways, which only accounts for one percent of total roadways, yet carries 25 percent of all highway traffic.[39]


Goals of the Legislation

There are a few goals of the attempted legislation that highlight why Dig Once policies are needed and efficient. The first is to eliminate duplicative expenses. By Digging Once, you are saving the cost of retrenching every time new conduit or fibers are needed, as well as coordinating with others to disturb the roadways only once. The next is to create funding allocation opportunities. As cost savings are realized by Digging Once, more funds become available to allocate to other jobs and projects that can work to benefit state and local economies.

Another goal of Dig Once legislation is to save taxpayer’s money. While the cost savings take some time to be fully realized, the future benefits of not having to excavate the roadways again, which cost an average of $27,000 per mile, ultimately saves taxpayers money.[40] If less excavation is required to install or change fibers in conduit, the average cost of deployment decreases, allowing for taxpayers to pay less in public service costs. Finally, planning for a more connected future is another goal of legislation. As technology evolves and people become increasingly tech savvy, the need for higher broadband speeds increases, thus needing fibers that can maintain the demand. By Digging Once, the conduit is already laid and the fiber can easily be switched in or out through air-jetting.


Telecommunications Act of 1996

The first overhaul of deregulating telecommunications, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 covered a wide variety of topics. In reference to Dig Once, it required that telecommunications providers allow other vendors to have access to the facilities (trenches) for broadband deployment.[41] It also required states and local providers to remove any barriers preventing competition.[42] Other providers were to be notified by the state and given adequate time to respond to the notice about install their own facilities concurrently.[43] The full act is quite extensive, covering a range of topics from video programming to violence and obscenity, and can be viewed at


Rep. Anna Eshoo Acts

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has been an advocate of Dig Once policies for many years. She has sent five acts through the House of Representatives; however, they have failed to pass and not made it to the Senate floor. The five Acts all have the same goal of requiring conduit installation during highway construction projects, with few amendments as the years pass. There were various supporters on each Act, with bipartisan representation. Below are the main goals of each Act. The full texts of each Act, with supporters listed, can be found in Appendix B.


H. R. 2428: To amend title 23, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Transportation to require that broadband conduit be installed as part of certain highway construction projects, and for other purposes.”[44]


H. R. 1695: To amend title 23, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Transportation to require that broadband conduit be installed as part of certain highway construction projects, and for other purposes.”[45]


H. R. 3805: United States Code, to provide for the inclusion of broadband conduit installation in certain highway construction projects, and for other purposes.”[46]


H. R. 4800: To amend title 23, United States Code, to provide for the inclusion of broadband conduit installation in certain highway construction projects, and for other purposes.”[47]


H. R. 2692: To amend title 23, United States Code, to provide for the inclusion of broadband conduit installation in certain highway construction projects, and for other purposes.”[48]


Klobuchar and Warner Bill

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) pushed a Bill through the Senate in 2011 with a very similar goal to Rep. Eshoo (D-Calif.). However, much like Eshoo’s attempts, this Bill also failed to pass and died on the Senate floor. The goal of the Bill is below. The full text of the Bill can be found in Appendix C.

S. 1939: To amend title 23, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Transportation to require that broadband conduits be installed as part of certain highway construction projects, and for other purposes.”


2012 Government Accountability Office 

In 2012, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) wrote a report to the Government Accountability Office. The report came after being asked that they “examine federal “Dig Once” policies that would require the deployment of broadband conduit in conjunction with federally funded highway construction projects as a way to decrease the costs of deploying fiber and eliminate the need for multiple excavations.”[49] The report presented information on advantages, disadvantages, and how policies of states and cities can inform a federal policy.[50] This document adequately explains the benefits of Dig Once policies and is referenced numerous times throughout this paper. The informants the authors used for the scope and methodology are listed in Appendix D. The full report can be found


Executive Order 13616, 2012

On June 14, 2012, President Barack Obama passed Executive Order 13616: Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure Deployment. It outlined many new criteria for the Department of Transportation to meet. While it did not mandate a federal Dig Once policy, it directed the DOT to review the current Dig Once requirements while working with state and local governments to create best practices and effectively use investment in transportation infrastructure.[51],[52] Additionally, the DOT must have a set of best practices that can accommodate future technologies with fewer excavations.[53] Further, policies, procedures and requirements were to be revised with regard to Dig Once, an online platform was to made to identify ROW laws, and review the state DOT’s policies to ensure private companies and other entities can construct and maintain broadband facilities.[54] The full text of Executive Order 13616 can be found in Appendix E.


Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018

In 2018, President Donald Trump signed a Federal Mandate that covered a variety of topics but included a section about broadband infrastructure. The relevant section, presented to 115th Congress, is in full below. The full text of the Consolidated Appropriations Act can be found at

H.R.1625 - Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018[55]

“(Sec. 607) To facilitate installation of broadband infrastructure, the DOT must promulgate regulations to ensure that states receiving federal-aid highway funds: (1) identify a broadband utility coordinator to facilitate the broadband infrastructure right-of-way efforts within the state; (2) register broadband infrastructure entities that seek to be included in those facilitation efforts; (3) establish a process to electronically notify such entities of the state transportation improvement program on an annual basis; (4) coordinate statewide telecommunication and broadband plans and state and local transportation and land use plans, including strategies to minimize repeated excavations that involve the installation of broadband infrastructure in a right-of-way; and (5) ensure that any existing broadband infrastructure entities are not disadvantaged.”


Best Practices

When looking at Dig Once policies, there are a number of ways to define best practices. Dig Once can have more than one application, leading to different types of implementation, each with its own best practices. Additionally, there are components of the policies that have separate guidelines for fulfilling a best practice. Finally, best practices for determining right-of-way are laid out. Outlined will be some states and cities who have successfully implemented Dig Once policies (see Appendix E). Other state legislatures are outlined in Appendix F, with city and county legislatures outlined in Appendix G. 



There are four main types of Dig Once policies:

  • Dig Once, Dig Smart
  • Dig Once, Permitting Process
  • Dig Once, Coordination
  • Dig Once, Joint Trenching

“Dig Once, Dig Smart” refers to when the local government installs publicly owned conduit whenever possible. This is sometimes referred to as “One Touch,” but most commonly referred to as “Dig Smart.” From there, telecommunication companies can lease the conduit for its fiber cables.

“Dig Once, Permitting Process” is when the local government streamlines the permit procedures.

“Dig Once, Coordination” involves coordinating plans and activities in the right-of-way. This can come in the form of shared leasing, where multiple Internet Service Providers (ISP)s share the cost of leasing infrastructure or in a utilities partnership, when conduit is installed at the same time as sewer and water projects.[56]

The final type, “Dig Once, Joint Trenching,” is when utilities are installed at the same time as the conduit in the same trench. This is meant to improve coordination with telecommunication providers when plans are made to open the ground for any reason, sharing the cost of excavation.[57] There are two types of joint trenching, mandatory and voluntary. Mandatory joint trenching is like what is described above, with the requirement that all potential excavators use the same trench to install their infrastructure at the same time.[58] Voluntary joint trenching, however, is when approval is required when those excavating in public right-of-ways to formulate construction plans and schedule construction with other service providers that are interested in installing or maintaining equipment in the public right-of-way.[59] The disadvantage here is that if no one agrees to installing at the same time in the same right-of-way, no conduit is installed at all.

Regardless of which Dig Once policy a city, county or state decides to implement, the premise of not having to re-excavate any time a move, add, change, or upgrade of fiber needs to occur still exists. However, this paper primarily focuses on the benefits of “Dig Once, Dig Smart,” as it ensures that conduit installation is part of all projects in a city with coordination and advanced planning.[60]


Cost Considerations

Regardless of which Dig Once policy is enacted, there are significant cost savings to be realized. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90 percent of conduit deployment costs is due to the excavation of the roadways.[61] The average cost per mile is estimated to be $27,000.[62] In a total excavation, the deployment of conduit network systems is only approximated to be upwards of 4 percent of the total cost.[63] These costs often leave smaller, more rural communities to be left out of the deployment of conduit, thus impacting their choices in internet service providers.

It has been estimated that overall savings of installing conduit with utilities or other road excavations can be between 25 and 33 percent, as shown by San Francisco after implementing a Dig Once policy.[64] Additionally, the Utah Department of Transportation found that it saved an average of 15.5 percent per mile when installing conduit in conjunction with other road projects rather than independently.[65] Finally, the FHWA appraises that it is up to 10 times more expensive to install fiber independently than in coordination with other roadwork.[66]

These figures represent only the initial cost savings. By Digging Once, there will not be a necessity to have a total excavation again, ultimately saving these costs repeatedly. With multiple pathways installed, the conduit will be prepared for new pathways or a change in fiber easily and without disruption to the roadways.


Components for Successful Implementation

There are multiple components for successful implementation of a Dig Once policy:

  1. Education
  2. Ordinance
  3. Coordination
  4. Conduit Network System

These elements will help guide the creation of an effective and comprehensive Dig Once policy.



 Educating the state and city on the benefits of a Dig Once policy is the first and foremost most important component. If the benefits are not realized, it will be difficult to obtain buy-in and funding and potentially stall or stop the project before it starts. Educating interested parties and stakeholders up front will result in on-going cooperation. It will also lay out the cost-benefit savings, making them more likely to want to implement such a policy. By demonstrating the economic impact and the need for high-speed broadband connectivity, the use of such a policy will continue to become more prevalent. Finally, describe the anticipated future demands of fiber as technologies continue to grow and more people require access to high-speed broadband. Detail the future-ready nature of the conduit network systems to meet such demands. Be sure to address any concerns and emphasize the highlights to create a well-rounded education of the stakeholders.



By practicing ordinance, various public goods can be established when coupled with Dig Once policies. It is important to establish the link to public goods and other benefits that will come of such a policy. Some of these goods include the prevention of road excavation repeatedly, ensure the right-of-way is being used efficiently, and perform deployment quicker. With Dig Once policies creating public goods, they then lead to other developments to help the community. Some examples are saving tax money, managing public resources, and encouraging economic development. These events all stem from the initial Dig Once policy. 

With that being said, there are some best practices that should be observed when planning ordinance into a Dig Once policy.

Ordinance best practices:

  • Use existing laws and practices and integrate ideas into statutes and processes.
  • Explain expectations for compliance and how to cope with expectations.
  • Underscore who is responsible in the text of ordinance.
  • Encourage or require companies to use your conduit.
  • Maintain public ownership of conduit as much as possible.

These best practices are just some of the ideas to better maintain ordinance. The other thing to establish in the ordinance is who has the responsibility for the cost of conduit deployment. It might differ depending on if the landscape is a greenfield or brownfield. A greenfield is operating on new territory that has not been previously trenched or had infrastructure installed before. In these cases, the developer might be responsible for the cost. Brownfield development refers to where infrastructure already exists. Cities are typically responsible for costs in developing this area.


The second component for successful implementation of a Dig Once policy is coordination. This ensures that departments, developers and private companies are coordinating the best ways to limit street disruptions. This helps inform potential excavators, like providers of broadband, when underground or road construction will take place so they can be prepared to install equipment alongside scheduled excavations.[67] Facilitation often happens through a database, where underground facility owners are required to update and maintain scheduled excavations.[68]

Coordination between communities at the state and local levels is important when planning for broadband deployment. This is because the local communities have a better understanding of its needs, but coordinating with the state government will help to ensure state requirements are met.[69] Additionally, it eliminates the need for duplicative federal reviews and permits years later when trying to work at the same location.[70] Deployment can be accomplished more quickly due to this.

When practicing coordination for a Dig Once policy, there are some best practices to keep in mind.

Coordination best practices:

  • Establish relationships and expectations by keeping track of private projects and streamlining bureaucratic systems.
  • Create effective coordination committees.
  • Clearly define an explanation of costs.
  • Line up departments’ budgets for potential large projects.

These practices will allow the Dig Once policy to be more encompassing and create clear expectations. 

Conduit Network Systems

Conduit network systems look at the type, placement and design of the network. For instance, they might decide to utilize MicroTrenching or MicroDucts. MicroTrenching is placing reduced diameter MicroDuct pathways into the utility space to reduce the impact on the existing infrastructure.[71] By using this technology, costs can be lowered and deployment can be sped up. MicroDucts, on the other hand, better allow for Dig Once policies to anticipate a scalable, future-ready for internal use and potential leasing monetization.

It is important to standardize, document, and manage the assets of the network system to make certain that initial and future deployment of telecommunication networks go quickly. Further, preplanning and creating a master conduit plans verifies that the conduit is being installed in essential places that make sense. Doing so will provide long term benefits and create maximization of the conduit network system benefits. Some things to consider in a master plan include the goal of the conduit system, standards, and layout, as well as locations for vaults and handholes. Failure to create a master plan leads to conduit being placed in wrong locations without added value, which is an overall costly waste of time. 

Once a master plan is developed, the next decision is determining who will build a foundational network system. There are a few options to consider. First, there might be dark fiber that can be leased; in essence, borrow the fiber. Another option is buying it if a local telecommunication company partner were to build a system. Finally, building the network from scratch and maintaining it will result in a city-owned conduit network system.

As with ordinance and coordination, there are best practices that are advised for conduit network systems.

Best practices of conduit network systems:

  • Create a master plan.
  • Publish clear and consistent guidelines (with engineering standards).
  • Choose the type of conduit that makes sense for your community—plan for the future.
  • Do not underestimate MicroTechnology
    • MicroTrenching is not NanoTrenching
      • NanoTrenching puts conduit a few inches below the surface and is unproven technology.
    • Document and verify your conduit.

These practices will ensure an effective, valuable conduit network systems that is future-ready.


State Examples

Currently, 11 states have implemented official Dig Once policies of varying degrees. Other states do not have a formal policy, but rather the expectation that communities will work to Dig Once without official policies. West Virginia, in HB 4447, creating new codes §17 – 2 E- 1-E-9 passed in 2018, states that telecommunication companies must partner with the Division of Highways when installing infrastructure. Additionally, they must advertise for two week in relevant media to inform other telecommunication companies that a trench is being built if they wish to share.[72] Maine also enacted a Dig Once policy in 2018 under Chapter 344, Sec. 1. 35-A MRSA §2503, sub-§2, stating that any public entity doing construction must install broadband conduit and allow for the leasing of the conduit to telecommunication companies. Additionally, all telecommunication companies in the area must be notified when one company decides to deploy conduit.[73] Illinois was one of the first states to have a Dig Once policy (605 ILCS 5/9-131) Sec. 9-131. ). The law declares that the DOT and Department of Central Management Services must collaborate when installing fiber networks in state-funded projects in new locations.[74] The Broadband Deployment Council continues to compile Dig Once best practices to execute policies in counties and cities. The full descriptions of these policies can be found in Appendix F, with other state legislations outlined in Appendix G.


City Examples

Counties and cities can also utilize Dig Once policies, regardless of whether or not the state has a formal policy. Currently, there are 18 cities who have enacted formal policies, with many dating back several years. One of the earliest policies on place, if not the earliest, was in Boston. In 1988, it was required that public right-of-ways being built had conduits installed.[75] There was an expansion in 1994 that further required telecommunication companies to lease out existing conduit before being able to install new conduits.[76] In Ord. 629 §1, passed by Loma Linda, California, in 2004, requires that new construction connects to existing fiber networks and include broadband-capable wiring.[77] The city of Brentwood, California, established in Ordinance No. 609 in 1999 that was similar to Boston’s policy. It also required that any new construction in public right-of-ways had conduit installed, however it required twin conduits.[78] Additionally, developers are required to install a fiber optic system in one of the conduits and leave the other empty.[79] A more detailed description about these city examples can be found in Appendix F, with other county and city ordinances outlined in Appendix H.



When creating a Dig Once policy, there are several considerations to address. Some of them are outlined below.[80]

Considerations with implementations of dig once:

  • Conduit access
  • Installation
  • Management
  • Maintenance
  • Cost issues
  • Location of access points along the conduit
  • Number and size of conduits
  • Security of conduit and access points
  • Conduit allocation process
  • Conduit map
  • Management of right of way access
  • Designation of conduit maintenance responsibilities
  • Setting conduit access rates

While an extensive list, following these considerations will enable the best Dig Once policy that is roadblock-free and can be implemented accordingly.



There are many advantages to implementing a Dig Once policy. The biggest is the cost savings associated with the policy. Digging Once can save up to 90 percent of deployment costs due to reducing excavations and re-trenching needed.[81] Additionally, the benefits continue to accrue as more projects are done and less digging is required.[82] Placing conduit in useful locations will provide long term benefits, as well as maximizing the value of both the conduit and fiber.

There are a number of ways that a Dig Once policy furthers local communities. For instance, despite not having a formal Dig Once policy, Lincoln, Nebraska, was able to utilize the concept and successfully build out a fiber network. Prior to having an extensive network, businesses were leaving or not coming to Lincoln due to the lack of broadband options. In 2011 during a downtown rebuild, it was decided that 5 miles of conduit would be installed since the excavations were already happening.[83] In 2012, a new manager began having ISP’s sign on to supply in the town and in 2015, the city of Lincoln reached a deal with Allo Communications that allowed Allo to lease the existing space and build conduit network systems throughout the rest of the city.[84] Though it took a few years to have conduit installed citywide, it ultimately brought in more businesses and made residents happy, fueling economic growth.

The case of Lincoln, Nebraska, was just one example of how having a robust broadband network can benefit a city. A few of the extensive benefits Dig Once policies provide include[85]:

  • Encouraging broadband competition by promoting the deployment of advanced fiber networks.
  • Lowering the costs for providing broadband service by mandating the installation of conduit throughout the public right-of-way.
  • Making communities more attractive to broadband providers wishing to break into new markets or expand existing operations, ultimately leading to more choices and lower prices for the consumer.
  • Decreasing the need and frequency of construction along public right-of-ways, where the construction can be inconvenient and dangerous.
  • Incentivizing broadband providers to lay fiber underground, protecting the reliability of these networks.
  • Hiding unsightly equipment, thus beautifying the community.

Other advantages that have been laid out by House representatives[86] include decreasing construction frequency along major highways, lowering the cost of installation, accelerating access and reliability of broadband networks, providing public and economic benefits (as outlined above), and decreasing the project time of the deployment of fiber.



Overall, the fulfillment of Dig Once policies are more advantageous than not. However, that is not to say there are not some disadvantages that arise. The largest disadvantage is that some empty conduit remains unused. This was the case in 1998 when Virginia’s DOT installed spare conduit with the intent of leasing it to local telecommunication providers. However, the clients of these providers required that they own the conduit rather than leased it out.[87] It took until 2008 when the DOT was finally able to sell the unused portions. A similar case happened in California where conduit installed in the 1990s still remains unused.[88] It had the additional problem of having portions of conduit that did not connect back to other infrastructure.[89] Due to this and the fact that were not active fibers installed, it proved difficult for California’s DOT to have the conduit used. However, these isolated instances are becoming less of a problem as the need for high-speed broadband connectivity continues to grow and new technologies are implemented.

Another concern and disadvantage that has been expressed with Dig Once policies is that in the time it takes to find someone to lease or buy the empty conduit, its life expectancy dwindles, lessening the value.[90] Additionally, another concern is the potential for additional administration costs for the state DOT’s and other local governments to maintain the duct and lease out the infrastructure.[91] This could like hiring additional personnel to keep up with inventory and administering the network.[92]

Waxman, Eshoo and Markey (2012) outlined other potential disadvantages of Dig Once policies, including the potential to divert highway funding away from highway construction projects.[93] Despite the low cost of installing conduit, the added engineering it would take to install conduit can be a hinderance and thus costly for highway construction. There is also the possibility of a conflict with state and local policies when leasing at a cost-based rate can cause a loss of revenue and trade opportunities, such as the case in Massachusetts and Utah.[94]


Future Implementation

 States, counties or cities that are interested in creating a Dig Once policy should coordinate with their Departments of Transportation. Additionally, they should coordinate with other telecommunications companies to show the extensive benefits associated with these policies. The Fiber to the Home Council has suggested language for crafting a Dig Once policy that can be found in Appendix I.



This white paper has established why Dig Once policies are beneficial and should be implemented. By analyzing the history of conduit deployment, the legislations and current policies in place, and the benefits and disadvantages, this paper is a well-rounded resource to refer to when needing information on Digging Once. As technology advances and high-speed broadband becomes more of a necessity in the American population, Digging Once provides a cost saving and efficient way to keep up with demand while still being future-ready. With execution of a Dig Once policy, communities and states are able to more quickly deploy conduit for broadband use and grow the economy by attracting residents and businesses to move to the area. Through extensive cost savings, Dig Once policies open the door for public works funding to reallocate funds to other projects. Dig Once should be seriously considered by those communities and states wanting to make a lasting impact on data capacity and preparing for the increased demands of the future.


  • [1] FHWA, Office of Transportation Policy Studies. Policy Brief: Minimizing Excavation Through Coordination. (2013, October). Retrieved from
  • [2] Brodkin, J. “Dig Once” rule requiring fiber deployment is finally set to become US law. (2018, March 7). Retrieved from
  • [3] US DOT, FHWA, & Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs. Executive Order: Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure Deployment. (2012, Dec.). Retrieved from
  • [4] Coleman, A. Dig Once: Using Public Rights-of-Way to Bridge the Digital Divide. (2017, July). Retrieved from
  • [5] Fiber to the Home Council, DIG SMART: Best Practices for Cities and States Adopting Dig Once Policies. (2018). Retrieved from
  • [6] Ibid.
  • [7] Dura-Line. Dig Once, Dig Smart. (2018, April 1). Retrieved from
  • [8] FHWA, Policy Brief, (2013).
  • [9] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [10] Ibid.
  • [11] Ibid.
  • [12] Ibid.
  • [13] Dickinson, P., Hayward, P. & Hines, M. Breakthrough Research on DAS for TPI Monitoring [Webinar]. (2020, Feb. 2). Retrieved from
  • [14] Dickinson, P., Hayward, P. & Hines, M., Breakthrough Research [Webinar], (2020).
  • [15] Dura-Line. (2019). MicroTrenching. Knoxville, TN.
  • [16] Ibid.
  • [17] Dura-Line, MicroTrenching. (2019).
  • [18] US DOT, Executive Order, (2012).
  • [19] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [20] FoTech. What is DAS? (n.d.) Retrieved from
  • [21] Ibid.
  • [22] Ibid.
  • [23] Dickinson, P., Hayward, P. & Hines, M., Breakthrough Research [Webinar], (2020).
  • [24] FCC. About the FCC. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • [25] Waxman, H. A., Eshoo, A. G., Markey, E. J., & Matsui, D. O., Planning and Flexibility Are Key to Effectively Deploying Broadband Conduit through Federal Highway Projects. (2012, June 27). Retrieved from
  • [26] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [27] Ibid.
  • [28] USDOT. About DOT. (2020, Jan. 29). Retrieved from
  • [29] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [30] Ibid.
  • [31] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [32] Ibid.
  • [33] USDOT. Federal Highway Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • [34] Policy: Federal Highway Administration. (2012, December). Retrieved from
  • [35] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [36] US DOT, FHWA, & Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs, Executive Order, (2012).
  • [37] FHWA, National Highway System. What is the National Highway System? (2020, March). Retrieved from
  • [38] US DOT, FHWA, & Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs, Executive Order, (2012).
  • [39] Ibid.
  • [40] Dura-Line, Dig Once, Dig Smart, (2018).
  • [41] US DOT, FHWA, & Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs, Executive Order, (2012).
  • [42] Ibid.
  • [43] Ibid.
  • [44]
  • [45]
  • [46]
  • [47]
  • [48]
  • [49] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [50] Ibid.
  • [51] Coleman, Dig Once, (2017).
  • [52] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [53] Ibid.
  • [54] US DOT, FHWA, & Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs, Executive Order, (2012).
  • [55] H.R.1625 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018. (2018, March 23). Retrieved from
  • [56] Cooper, T. (2019, August 7). Dig Once: The Digital Divide Solution Congress Squandered And Policy That Could Save $126 Billion On Broadband Deployment. Retrieved from
  • [57] Cooper, Dig Once, (2019).
  • [58] Fiber to the Home Council, Dig Smart, (2018).
  • [59] Ibid.
  • [60] Fiber to the Home Council, Dig Smart, (2018).
  • [61] Dura-Line. Dig Once, Dig Smart. (2018).
  • [62] Ibid.
  • [63] Fiber to the Home Council, Dig Smart, (2018).
  • [64] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [65] Ibid.
  • [66] Fiber to the Home Council, Dig Smart, (2018).
  • [67] Fiber to the Home Council, Dig Smart, (2018).
  • [68] Ibid.
  • [69] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [70] FHWA, Policy Brief, (2013).
  • [71] Dura-Line, MicroTrenching. (2019).
  • [72] Cooper, Dig Once, (2019).
  • [73] Ibid.
  • [74] Ibid.
  • [75] Cooper, Dig Once, (2019).
  • [76] Ibid.
  • [77] Ibid.
  • [78] Ibid.
  • [79] Ibid.
  • [80] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility, (2012).
  • [81] Cooper, Dig Once, (2019).
  • [82] Fiber to the Home Council, Dig Smart (2018).
  • [83] Zager, M. (2018, March). Lincoln Steps Into the Future. Retrieved from
  • [84] Ibid.
  • [85] Fiber to the Home Council, Dig Smart (2018).
  • [86] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey, & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility (2012).
  • [87] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey, & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility (2012).
  • [88] Ibid.
  • [89] Ibid.
  • [90] Policy: Federal Highway Administration. (2012, December). Retrieved from
  • [91] Ibid.
  • [92] Waxman, Eshoo, Markey, & Matsui, Planning and Flexibility (2012).
  • [93] Ibid.
  • [94] Ibid.