CARSON CITY — Nevada’s fiber optic network may get another tool for expansion.
Lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 53, which would authorize the Nevada Department of Transportation and telecommunications companies to work together to grow the state’s fiber optic network in a way that benefits both the public and private sectors.
The bill, sponsored by Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Office of Science, Innovation and Technology, was heard Tuesday in the Senate Transportation Committee. No immediate action was taken.
Specifically, the legislation would allow NDOT and telecommunications companies to conduct “fiber trading” to help grow the state’s infrastructure. For example, a company allowed access to the state’s right-of-way along a highway for fiber optic cable could give the state access to part of its fiber optic system, such as a tower or miles of fiber elsewhere.
“The need and appetite for broadband in Nevada is great,” Brian Mitchell, director of the Office of Science, Innovation and Technology, told the committee.
Mitchell said such deals can help overcome the high costs of growing broadband capacity and help the state grow more quickly.
The bill is modeled after a practice in Utah, which traded for 812 miles of fiber optic network between 2011 and 2015.
Reid Kaiser, assistant director of operations for NDOT, said the legislation could allow the agency to broaden the use of technology such as cameras showing roadway conditions online.
State Sen. Mark Manendo, who chairs the committee, said the practice is a good way to avoid repeated excavations along the same roadways.
“I never understood why everybody’s not on the same page and working together,” the Las Vegas Democrat said. “‘Dig once’ should be stamped on everybody’s forehead.”
Testimony from the telecommunications industry was mixed.
Randy Robison, a lobbyist for CenturyLink, said the company has participated in the Utah program and had a favorable experience there.
John Lopez, a lobbyist with Cox Communications, said his company would like to see changes to the bill, citing concerns about the “broad authority” given to NDOT to set compensation rates for the use of right-of-way space.
The legislation also expands the duties of the Office of Science, Innovation and Technology, and requires the office to develop a strategic plan for broadband service in Nevada; apply for state and federal grants to expand broadband services; and expanding fiber infrastructure for public safety. The bill would require the office to administer the fiber trade policy for fiber optic infrastructure.
Contact Ben Botkin at email@example.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.