Initiative Fosters Competition among Providers and Minimizes Traffic and Environmental Impacts Associated with More Traditional Methods of Digging in City Streets – at No Taxpayer Expense
New York City Chief Information and Innovation Officer Rahul N. Merchant, Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel, Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky and Verizon Executive Director for National Operations Chris Levendos today announced the launch of an innovative pilot program to speed the deployment of fiber optic cabling to businesses and residences across the five boroughs while minimizing construction time, environmental impact and cost. Known as “micro-trenching,” this initiative demonstrates and tests the effectiveness of installing small conduits within the edges of City sidewalks to house fiber optic cabling, which can be used to deliver voice, Internet and cable television service. The excess capacity provided by micro-trenching will be available for use by other communications industry providers, as well as by City agencies, at no cost for the duration of the pilot. Based upon the results of the pilot – the first of its kind in any large city in the country – New York City may expand the use of micro-trenching citywide as a construction option available for communications industry providers. Micro-trenching is the latest initiative in the City’s comprehensive effort to expand broadband connectivity and bolster its growing tech sector.
“Broadband is the lifeblood of many New Yorkers and businesses, fundamentally transforming the ways in which they interact with and thrive in the world-at-large,” said Chief Information and Innovation Officer Merchant. “Now we’re extending that transformation to underserved areas across the five boroughs. Whether it’s restoring service to storm-ravaged areas or extending it to new ones, the innovative micro-trenching pilot will allow the City to speed deployment of fiber optics while minimizing the impacts to the very communities it’s helping to improve. And the excess capacity for competing providers means that New Yorkers can be afforded true options in cost and connectivity as the reach of this vital infrastructure continues to expand.”
“Micro-trenching is yet another innovative way we’re making it faster and more efficient to invest in critical infrastructure, like broadband, that is becoming increasingly necessary to live and work in New York City,” said Deputy Mayor Holloway. “This pilot will not only connect more New Yorkers faster, it will enable small broadband providers to take advantage of the infrastructure Verizon is putting in place – and that means more choices and more competition.”
“To continue its development as a tech center, New York City needs the fiber infrastructure to support it,” said Deputy Mayor Steel. “Micro-trenching is an innovative way of building that infrastructure more quickly, at lower cost and with less disruption. This will facilitate increased investment by the private sector, which will encourage competition and lower prices, benefiting New York City residents, visitors, and companies.”
“Our streets don’t just move people, they’re also conduits for our city’s vast telecommunications, water and utility network,” said Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “Whether it’s coordinating construction work so that streets aren’t ripped up unnecessarily or making sure that contractors do a good job restoring streets in the first place, we’ve raised the bar on street repair standards and micro-trenching is yet another strategy to help minimize the impact of utility work on our roads.”
“While New York City’s emergence as a global hub of technology and innovation is a promising sign for the future of our economy, we must continue to tackle certain challenges in order to stay competitive,” said NYC Economic Development Corporation President Pinsky. “This initiative strongly complements the City’s existing suite of programs to enhance our broadband infrastructure and has far-reaching potential to expand high-speed connectivity for both businesses and residents alike. Micro-trenching not only will save critical time and money, but it will also help make the New York City more resilient.”
“Internet connectivity is the foundation of a truly digital city, and this exciting micro-trenching pilot represents an innovative and significant step forward in our digital roadmap for New York City,” said Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot. “Greater fiber-optic infrastructure will connect more New Yorkers to crucial information and services that improve their daily lives, and is a powerful investment in the future of New York City’s economy. Today’s announcement of expanded access will help to fuel New York City’s thriving technology sector, and further underscores the City’s commitment to innovation.”
“Micro-trenching has been a method used more commonly within roadways in suburban or rural areas,” said Verizon Executive Director Levendos. “In highly populated areas, such as New York City, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to deploy fiber traditionally without causing major disruption to city residents, commuters and small business owners. Verizon recognized the opportunity to leverage the benefits of micro-trenching to improve and expand broadband capability across all five boroughs quicker with much less disturbance to the City. We applaud the City for its support of this initiative.”
Now underway at 12 sites across the five boroughs, the micro-trenching agreement between the City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, Department of Transportation and Verizon comes at no taxpayer cost, and will assess the feasibility of micro-trenching as a citywide fiber-optic cable deployment method. Under the conditions of the pilot program, Verizon is installing conduits and fiber in pre-approved locations in the five boroughs along and below City sidewalks via micro-trenching. Also known as “saw cutting,” micro-trenching allows the placement of flexible conduit and fiber-optic cable in narrow, shallow trenches utilizing expansion joints between sidewalk flags and between the curb and the sidewalk flags.
As part of the agreement, the excess capacity provided by the installed duct systems – at least four pathways on low-density residential blocks and six pathways in other areas – will be available for use by other communications industry providers, as well as by City agencies, at no cost for the duration of the pilot program. More information on the pilot, as well as instructions for requesting access to the new conduits available via micro-trenching, can be found on NYC.gov.
As New York City’s technology sector continues to grow, the demand for ubiquitous, reliable and competitive broadband connectivity for commercial broadband users increases with it – especially for small businesses and start-ups outside the city’s central business districts. City agencies play a vital role in this regard, whether by encouraging private investment in underserved areas or by facilitating use of the City’s streets for the installation and maintenance of fiber-optic cables that provide broadband services to these areas.
Unlike traditional street trenching, micro-trenching is a cost-effective method of deploying fiber optic cabling as it allows quick deployment of fiber optics with both minimal disruption to street and roadway traffic and minimal interference with public utility infrastructure. In the process of installing and maintaining micro-trenching facilities, for example, Verizon will not cut, damage, or otherwise interfere with or affect tree roots, any light poles, utility poles or street furniture. Upon the completion of work at each site, the company will fully restore all affected curbs, sidewalk slabs and street surfaces to their original condition.
Today’s effort builds on the suite of initiatives announced by the City last year to significantly expand broadband connectivity. These include ConnectNYC, a competition to build out fiber wiring for commercial and industrial buildings; a grading program for connectivity in New York City buildings; a crowd-sourced digital map highlighting wired buildings citywide; a streamlined process for broadband-related permitting as well as exploring the streamlining of regulatory issues; and a competition to develop mobile applications to help residents access critical services provided by the City and community-based organizations.
These efforts also include – pursuant to the City’s recent cable television renewal agreements with Time Warner Cable and Cablevision – the expansion of advanced fiber optic network technology to un-served commercial buildings citywide as well as to 20 new miles of currently un-served city blocks per year through July 2020. The first major milestone in this regard, deployment of fiber-optic cabling to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, was completed last August.
Nick Sbordone (CIIO / DoITT)
Seth Solomonow (DOT)
Patrick Muncie (NYEDC)
John Bonomo (Verizon)