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Effort to expand broadband in rural areas takes big step forward

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PHOENIX – The state’s goal of expanding broadband internet access in rural areas is taking a big step forward with a public-private partnership. The agreement with eX2 Technology is to operate, maintain and lease space in fiber-optic conduit installed along Interstate 17 and Interstate 19, and being installed later this year along much of Interstate 40.
The Arizona Department of Transportation, in partnership with Governor Katie Hobbs and the Arizona Commerce Authority, entered into the agreement recently with eX2 Technology, an Omaha, Nebraska, firm with extensive experience working with state and local governments to manage what is often referred to as middle-mile fiber-optic infrastructure.
This partnership represents the next step in leveraging state-owned, open-access conduit installed by ADOT to expand broadband internet access to homes and businesses in rural Arizona. It complements a state law that allows private broadband providers to install, operate, and maintain telecommunications equipment within ADOT’s right of way using conduit installed along state highways.
“This investment of a robust statewide middle-mile program will connect Arizonans in rural and tribal lands to quality broadband, providing families access to good jobs, quality health care and education, and positioning Arizona to continue its dynamic growth for years,” Governor Katie Hobbs said.
In addition to the benefits to rural broadband connectivity, ADOT plans to use the fiber-optic conduit to provide intelligent transportation systems technology, such as overhead message boards, traffic cameras, weather stations and wrong-way driving detection. The infrastructure also will help lay the groundwork for emerging technologies like connected and automated vehicles.
“We appreciate the support and collaboration from the Governor’s Office and our colleagues at the Arizona Commerce Authority and are excited to be a part of this transformative project,” said ADOT Director Jennifer Toth. “We continue to safely connect people and empower our state’s economy.”
The initial scope for this 25-year agreement includes fiber-optic conduit along I-17 from Phoenix to Flagstaff, I-19 from Tucson to Nogales, and conduit to be installed on Interstate 40 from Flagstaff to California. It will be available for lease by internet service providers looking to expand broadband internet access, something that’s expected to start happening in the coming months.
The new fiber-optic conduit will also advance historic broadband expansion efforts in underserved and unserved areas of the state, including more than $1 billion in funding to implement the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program and Digital Equity Program established through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Representing the largest broadband investments in state history, the programs are overseen by the State Broadband Office, which is housed within the Arizona Commerce Authority, with a goal of achieving universal broadband access for all Arizonans.
“This agreement represents a significant step forward in our efforts to bring high-speed broadband to all Arizonans,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority. “The enhanced connectivity along I-17 and I-19 opens new opportunities for rural communities and will catalyze additional public and private sector investments across the state. We’re grateful for Governor Hobbs’ leadership on broadband and our important partnership with the Arizona Department of Transportation.”
Find more information about Arizona’s broadband expansion efforts from the State Broadband Office: azcommerce.com/broadband.
To learn more about ADOT’s broadband efforts, including a map showing fiber-optic conduit installed along state highways, please visit azdot.gov/broadband

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