May Newsline: FCC Submits Broadband Changes, Aurora Plans Sewer Improvements, Sustainability New Goal For Public Works

May 2010 Vol. 65 No. 5

Alaska construction jobs on rise, other states bleak

FCC submits broadband changes to Congress
The Federal Communications Commission submitted its National Broadband plan to Congress in March. The plan calls for at least 100 million U.S. homes to have access to affordable broadband at 100-megabits-per-second (mbps) download speeds over the next decade. The FCC also wants at least 4 mbps in actual download speeds to be universally available, and 500-megahertz worth of free broadcast spectrum to be used for mobile broadband.

Last fall, Congress directed the FCC to develop a plan to make affordable broadband nationwide and at faster speeds, and make it available to the one-third of the country still without broadband access today.

As part of paying to reach such goals, the FCC suggests redirecting the “Universal Service Fund” fees that phone users currently pay to subsidize telecom service in high-cost rural areas.

The broadband plan proposes making those fees — $4.6 billion a year — part of a $15 billion annual “Connect America Fund” promoting expanded broadband.

Aurora planning 20-year sewer improvement
Over the next 20 years, Aurora, IL, plans to spend an estimated $151 million to continue improvement of its combined sewer systems.

Aurora's sewer system dates back to the late 1800s, and at the time, it was common practice to install one large pipe for sewage and rainwater. But during heavy rain (or snowmelt), those pipes can fill up, backing up into basements, and into the Fox River and Indian Creek.

The city has spent more than $200 million to address these issues, mainly by de-combining the sewers. The work involves removing the single pipe and replacing it with two, one for sewage and one for stormwater. The city council approved the first de-combination plan in 1994.

Since then, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been working with Aurora (and about 770 other communities across the nation) to bring them in line with federal clean water laws.