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Arizona Fiber Work Will Connect Vehicles and Residents

A public-private partnership involving two state agencies and a broadband technology provider will lay more than 400 miles of fiber-optic conduit on three Arizona interstates. It will link connected vehicles as well as homes and businesses.

Interstate 40 signs in Williams, Arizona direct drivers to Flagstaff, Arizona or Los Angeles.
New fiber-optic communication infrastructure going into major Arizona roadways will do more than bring high-speed Internet to homes and businesses — it will enable vehicle connectivity in a state that has become a testbed for autonomous vehicle deployments.

The project, a partnership among the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), the Arizona Commerce Authority and eX2 Technology announced last month, will lay 405 miles of fiber along interstates 40, 19 and 17. Work is expected to begin later this year.

“Drivers on those interstates also will benefit as well from the fiber-optic conduit. ADOT plans to use it to provide intelligent transportation systems technology, such as overhead message boards, traffic cameras, weather stations and wrong-way driving detection,” Steve Elliott, ADOT assistant communications director for public information, said via email. “The infrastructure also will help lay the groundwork for emerging technologies like connected and automated vehicles.”

“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,” Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, said in a statement.

The initiative will lay out 205 miles of fiber on Interstate 40, between the California state line and Flagstaff; 60 miles of fiber on Interstate 19; and 140 miles of fiber on Interstate 17. This will be “middle-mile” broadband, intended to build out the infrastructure needed to support final “last-mile” connections to homes and businesses.

“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,” Gov. Katie Hobbs said in a statement.

The project is seen as a significant advancement of the national goal to bring broadband to unserved and underserved areas. Arizona received more than $993.1 million from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, part of the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.