"If you build it they will come" is the idea behind a public/private partnership designed to make it easy for Dublin, Ohio, businesses to get high-speed communications services. After seeing how streets in Columbus and other cities in the area had been continuously dug up to accommodate cabling for alternative telecommunications providers, Dana McDaniel, Dublin's director of services, sought a cost-effective alternative.

McDaniel spoke with Eric Smith, president of Fishel Co., an underground utility construction company, with a proposal for a "dig once" construction plan. This prompted DubLink Development Co. to build an underground, inner-duct system consisting of 12 1.25-in. conduits installed throughout Dublin's commercial business district. Believed to be the first arrangement of thi s kind in the nation, DubLink allows service providers to rent space in the conduit system for voice, data, and video communications systems. This allows tenants to conduct e-commerce, connect to extranets, build virtual private networks, and construct Web sites with ease.

"We now have a 'leasable' product," says DubLink Operations Manager Dean Pence. "We have connectivity from the north end to the south end of the business district. Manholes are strategically located to accommodate customer access. All the permitting is done. All the service providers have to do is pull their systems through."

The city also benefits. "The duct system interconnects some of our municipal buildings," says McDaniel. "Later, we can provide redundant pathways to other facilities, such as government buildings, schools, and fire stations."