Jean Ann Lawson

David P. Young
Manager, Fiber Infrastructure and Right of Way Construction Management
Department of Public Works and Utilities
Lincoln, Nebraska

Favorite Music

Guns N’ Roses, eg, Patience, Foo Fighters, eg, Best of You, and other 80s and 90s hair bands.

Challenge

20 states don’t allow cities to install their own fiber-optic cable infrastructure; Nebraska is one of them. (Critics say it’s because legacy operators prefer using the copper wiring they put in long ago.) And private companies hesitate to lay fiber optic themselves because of the extraordinary expense of digging up streets. In 2012, two tech companies left Lincoln in part because the city’s Internet access was slow. Residents also complained that streaming video was often impossible. Lincoln needed to get broadband, but didn’t think it could change state law.

Solution

David realized Lincoln has a 400-mile existing network of conduits (pipes under the street that house wires for traffic signals). He approached private broadband providers and offered them access. Companies could just pull out old unused wiring and replace it with fiber-optic cable.

It worked. Ten private companies have so far invested $220 million to bring lightning-fast 1-gigabit broadband to Lincoln, installing it at the rate of one mile of fiber-optic a day. More than 35,000 homes now have access to broadband, and all 110,000 homes in the city will have it by summer 2018.

Lessons Learned

Dave has high praise for the late Virendra Singh, Lincoln’s former engineering services manager who thought to install conduits decades ago. He also credits someone he met in the oil pipeline business who told him about fractional ownership and use, a principle that Dave realized could apply to other industries.

Dave’s Job

Has a team of 48, reports to Public Works Director. Manages IT, construction and development services and “locates” (using 50 boring rigs to do 10,000 markings a month, ie, mapping all underground utilities).

Dave’s Personal Background

Grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma; graduate of Oklahoma State in Stillwater, and of its master’s program in network engineering, writing his thesis on rural broadband. After six years in private construction, joined city of Tulsa as construction inspector, then right-of-way manager dealing with building owners who couldn’t get service they wanted. Helped build conduit system there, which earned a bit of press. One day got a phone call out of the blue from city of Lincoln (“always return phone calls,” he recommends). Asked him to come and consult “a couple weeks” on a conduit system, which turned into 11-month contract. By July 2013 had a permanent job.

Hobbies

Loves to hike, next big one will be in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest in August, 10 miles a day and camping at night, with significant other who’s still in Tulsa.

Observation about Fellow Nebraskans

Loves his adopted home staters, finds them legendarily pleasant—“Nebraska Nice.” Except behind the wheel. “When they get in their car, they will drive you off the road.”

Contact Info

dyoung@lincoln.ne.gov

NOT GETTING CITYPALOOZA?