Tech Startup Building Broadband on Road Surfaces


optic fibers

A new way to distribute optical fiber, the technology used to deliver high-speed internet service, may be coming to cities in Maryland and Virginia.

Fiber-optic cables are usually buried underground in trenches or bundled on top of utility poles. Tech startup  created a new method to install the technology: on the surface of roads.

According to the company, its FiberTRAX technique is faster and easier to install, less costly, and poses minimal disruptions.

TRAXyL has already installed FiberTRAX in Stillwater, Okla. to connect the city’s traffic control center to the network. The company is awaiting approvals for proposed pilot programs in Baltimore, Md. and Fauquier County, Va., as well as from small wireless internet service providers in Richmond and Gordonsville, Va, TRAXyL co-founder and chief operating officer Stephen Carter, told think and code.

Baltimore’s Department of Transportation is evaluating TRAXyL’s proposal, Connor Scott, the department’s deputy director, told think and code. Scott said the proposal would be to connect an existing public works facility to a new building that will serve as headquarters for the city’s conduit system.

“We’re definitely interested and would like to try the technology out, but we haven’t yet made a decision,” Scott said.

A spokesperson for Fauquier County didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Carter, TRAXyL developed the technique to help close the gap between rural and urban access to high-speed internet access. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has said closing this “digital divide” is a top priority and formed a committee in January to recommend how to remove regulatory barriers to deployment in under-served areas.

FiberTRAX could be used to expand rural broadband access and deploy 5G wireless infrastructure, Carter said.  He also said it could be used for connectivity in temporary situations such as marathons, concerts, or for disaster relief.  

So far, installation of the technology has been well-received. The city of Stillwater hasn’t had problems with FiberTRAX, Tully McCrory, traffic control technician for Stillwater, told think and code July 10. The city has been using the technology since May 23. 

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