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SF may permit micro-trenching for fiber optic internet providers

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High-speed internet is installed in the Mission-Duboce area on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (Joshua Sabatini/S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco’s access to high-speed fiber optic internet service may increase under a proposal to — for the first time — begin permitting the installation of fiber wiring using more cost-effective micro-trenching.

Supervisor Mark Farrell, who is also leading an effort for a citywide broadband network, introduced legislation Tuesday that would for the first time have Department of Public Works grant micro-trenching city permits beginning Jan. 2, 2018.

Such permits would allow internet service providers to install at a much lesser cost infrastructure to grow their customer base.

“It is difficult for many small service providers to enter the market and compete to deliver service,” Farrell said. “We have great small internet service providers that are fighting for a piece of the pie in our city to deliver services to our residents but they are denied because of cost and other prohibitions.”

The Department of Public Works would “issue permits to excavate that allow the permittee to use micro-trenching to install a fiber-optic cable in the sidewalk portion of the public right-of-way, subject to any orders, regulations, or standard plans and specifications the Department may adopt.”

The trenches would have to go 18 inches deep, but internet providers have argued for shallower trenching since it would be less expensive. The Department of Public Works has countered that the deeper trench is necessary to avoid various conflicts.

“We have been working with the supervisor’s office on the proposal, and will continue to while it goes through the legislative process,” Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon told the San Francisco Examiner Monday. “We currently do not have micro-trenching in San Francisco.”

In drafting the legislation, Farrell’s staff said every local internet service provider was included, such as AT&T, Comcast, Monkeybrains, Sonic and Google’s Webpass.

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