Pennsylvania P3 greenlights 550-mile fiber network

Pennsylvania's Public-Private Partnership (P3) board has given its thumbs up for a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission project to install a fiber cable along the state's 550-mile turnpike and extensions to provide capacity for the commission, the state department of transportation (PennDOT), and carriers that need wholesale capacity.

Additionally, the board approved the 2015-16 Annual Report from PennDOT's P3 Office, which provides updates on active P3 projects and notes accolades received.

The Turnpike Commission is not going it alone with this project. Instead, the commission plans to create a partnership with a private construction partner which will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the fiber optic cable, allowing the partner to market and lease the remaining capacity after the state's needs are addressed.

A complementary wireless mesh overlay would be installed over the fiber, which would be designed and built by the private partner and turned over to the Turnpike Commission in the future for maintenance.

Mark Compton, Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO, said in a release the new network will serve multiple near- and long-term needs including collecting "tolling data and connecting traffic management devices such as Intelligent Transportation Systems" as well as being able to handle "tomorrow's data challenges including connected vehicles."

A P3 model is being used for the project because bonding the fiber's construction would take away resources from other turnpike capital improvements. The P3 partnership also leverages private-sector expertise in installing, operating, marketing and maintaining fiber optic cable in a region that could be attractive to service providers and other entities in nearby metro areas.

Now that it has received the board's approval, the Turnpike Commission said it will begin seeking industry input. In October, the commission expects to request statements of qualifications from the private sector partners on how they can contribute to the success of this project. The commission expects to select a preferred proposer in June 2017 and aims to have portions of the fiber installed and operational in 2018.

While this proposed project is being done on a state level, it reflects similar efforts taken on the federal level to find ways to link fiber deployments with highway projects. In October 2015, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a "Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act" that will use a "dig once" policy to link broadband deployment to federal highway projects. According to a Federal Highway Administration estimate about 90 percent of the cost of deploying fiber comes from digging up and replacing roads.

For more:
- see this release

Editor's Corner: Eshoo/Walden Dig Once bill is promising for carrier fiber installations, but will it see the light of day?

Related articles:
Broadband bill links deployments to federal highway projects
Google Fiber's Medin: Net neutrality doesn't promote broadband competition
Frontier says pole attachment prices are dramatically high in rural areas