Having the latest broadband technology will increasingly be necessary to facilitate economic growth, connecting Texas households and businesses
AUSTIN, Texas (Texas Insider Report) —
From large to medium or small-sized metro areas in underserved rural areas, communities across Texas are facing rapidly increasing needs for powerful digital infrastructure systems to support their economies – as well as the families that live in them.
At a time when broadband connectivity has never been more in demand – or more critical to day-to-day life – two leading corporations with strong Texas ties announced earlier this week that they will be making major investments to create the country's largest commercial wholesale open access fiber network and help bring high-speed connectivity to more Americans.
Texas’ own AT&T Corporation has joined together with BlackRock, Inc. to form a joint venture – called Gigapower LLC, – that will operate a commercial fiber platform and work to provide a best-in-class fiber network to internet service providers (ISPs) and other businesses across the United States.
Gigapower will allow AT&T to greatly expand across both the state of Texas, and into communities nationwide where it provides high-speed fiber internet service.
Broadband – an internet connection with sufficient speed to deliver online experiences, including full-motion video without significant lag time – is increasingly seen as a requirement for modern life.
In 2019, 27.6% of Texans lacked access to broadband internet
, and more than 7.6 million people were without broadband access at home. This partnership will work to shrink that number for the betterment of all communities, while continued broadband investment will be necessary to ensure Texas remains at the forefront of the digital economy and is a great place to live, work, and visit.
Gigapower expects to expand its fiber deployment across the nation, including to areas outside of AT&T's current service areas.
Texas has more rural schools than any other state – and large swaths of rural Texas have spotty internet, if at all. This lack of access will affect the quality of education students are getting, not to mention the attractiveness for businesses. This creates a division and inequality between rural communities and metro centers.
But thanks to AT&T and BlackRock’s investment and infrastructure build-out, Gigapower will help connect the communities where the need is greatest, while also improving capabilities in existing service markets.
A February 2021 Report from the Texas Comptroller’s Office found that
almost 90% of non-Hispanic whites in Texas have broadband access, compared to 80% of Black Texans and 78% of Hispanic Texans. Specifically, such developments will reduce the levels of disparity by socioeconomic status or ethnicity.
It is worth noting that this joint-venture announcement comes at a time when BlackRock continues to be under the microskope of some Texas State Legislators, which arose after repeated statements by a number of BlackRock's senior executives expressing their support for liberal Democrat's new "ESG policies" – short for "Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance" – which Hegar and others said "forces an intellectually dishonest narrative about the so-called energy transition" on corporate America, particlularly the nation's oil & gas industries.
Earlier this year Comptroller Glenn Hegar and BlackRock made headlines
when The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) was required to divest $500 million worth of investments with the company to comply with the state's list of banned investment firms, which Hegar released under Texas’ 2021 anti-ESG law, SB 13.
Yet even after those circumstances of lost business in the state, BlackRock – via their partnership with AT&T, as well as among other efforts – continues to invest in communities across the nation, including here in the Lonestar State.
"This investment will advance efforts to bridge the digital divide and spur economic growth in the communities where Gigapower operates," said BlackRock Chairman & CEO Larry Fink, as AT&T and BlackRock created Gigapower LLC through a fund managed by its Diversified Infrastructure business.
The Gigapower fiber deployment will be incremental to AT&T’s plans to pass 30 million-plus fiber locations, including businesses, by the end of 2025. AT&T and BlackRock will jointly own and govern Gigapower, and have plans to expand and keep building fiber outside of the current AT&T network.
For families, students, workers, consumers, as well as small and large businesses across the State of Texas, having access to the latest broadband technology will increasingly be necessary to facilitate economic growth and pave the way to a stronger America. Connecting Texas households and businesses is more important than ever.
Continued broadband investment will be necessary to ensure Texas remains at the forefront of the digital economy and is a great place to live, work, and visit.
In addition to providing expanded high speed internet access to millions of Texans, the alignment may signal a subtle recognition by one of Wall Street's leading firms that Comptroller Hegar's recommendation to invest in "he Texas Miracle," isn't such a bad decision after all.