A group of community members shared their support for a “Dig Once” policy the Bellingham City Council is considering during the public comment period at the Monday, April 23 meeting.
“Dig Once” policies have been used by other cities to expand broadband internet service, according to the City Council agenda bill.
The policy would require a minimum of two conduits, or small tubes that protect power lines and fiber optic cables, to be installed underground in all applicable construction projects in Bellingham, according to the City Council agenda bill.
Ted Carlson, the City of Bellingham’s public works director, said in the public works committee meeting one conduit would be reserved for use by the city to ensure secure high-speed connection for public agencies and infrastructure. He also said the second conduit would be available for future leasing to private broadband service providers.
Bob Hayes, a Bellingham resident of 24 years, showed his support for the policy by speaking during the public comment period.
Hayes said he believes expanding broadband service would have a positive impact on all Bellingham residents.
“I think we in Bellingham have a responsibility to facilitate access to broadband to low-income residents here in town,” Hayes said. “There are a lot of people at the low end of the spectrum who do not have the ability to pay for the package offerings that Comcast, the principle provider of internet in Bellingham, has.”
The policy aims to expand infrastructure required to provide broadband service to Bellingham residents, and minimize the amount of construction on existing roadways, according to the drafted policy.
It is estimated adding conduit installation to public works projects would cost $100,000 in staffing and resources annually, with future studies adding an additional $300,000, according to the City Council agenda bill.
Councilmember Gene Knutson, chair of the Public Works and Natural Resources Committee, ended the session by promising more discussion on the policy in the next few weeks.
“In order to get the right policy, we have to discuss this further,” Knutson said.