WASHINGTON, September 13, 2023 – Gigapower is in talks with state broadband offices about potentially building out open access infrastructure with grants from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, the company’s CEO said Wednesday.
“I think that when the time comes for BEAD, this platform will be a perfect fit,” Bill Hogg, the company’s CEO, said at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event.
That’s because consumers could still choose from multiple internet providers offering different services at different price points, all on BEAD-funded Gigapower infrastructure, Hogg pitched. The traditional ISP-owned infrastructure model would only bring service from the provider that won a state contract to expand their network, he claimed.
“They like the idea that multiple ISPs will be able to bring choice to their constituents,” he said of state broadband officials. “They don’t have to pick a winner or a loser.”
Gigapower, a joint venture between AT&T and the investment firm BlackRock, is already slated to build a 1.5-million-location open access network. That means it will own and operate a fiber network while allowing multiple internet service providers to use that network to connect individual homes and businesses.
Spawned from the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act, the BEAD program allocates $42.5 billion to subsidize broadband infrastructure – primarily fiber – in areas that still lack adequate internet service because of geographical barriers or low population density. After submitting initial proposals by the end of the year, states will be able to start doling out this money to fund projects.
Gigapower is actively looking to add more service providers to its lineup, Hogg said.
“We fully intend to have other ISPs on the network,” he said. “We’re having good discussions with potential future tenants.”
Benefits of open access
AT&T will be the first tenant on the open access network, part of its deal with Blackrock. The telecom is looking to reach more people as quickly as possible, said Erin Scarborough, its president of broadband and connectivity, but building out fiber is costly and expensive. Making use of a network outside the company’s existing infrastructure will make it easier to expand into new areas and was a key motivator for investing in the project.
“That’s one of the key tenets of this agreement and why we were looking to do it,” Scarborough said.
The open access model is a departure from the norm in American telecommunications. There are regional open access networks like Utah’s UTOPIA Fiber, but large ISPs have traditionally opted for the security of owning and operating their own networks.
“When you start thinking about operating more efficiently with less capital, sharing networks has always made sense,” Hogg said. “We think that this model is going to break down the historical bias telecos have had about not controlling all the assets.”
Despite the company’s investment in the project and first-provider status, Scarborough and Hogg were emphatic that AT&T will not have a management role over the network.
“We are the network operator,” Hogg said of Gigapower. “We own the assets. We own the negotiation for the commercial terms.”
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Wednesday, September 13, 2023 – AT&T and BlackRock’s Gigapower Joint Venture
In December 2022, AT&T and BlackRock, through a fund managed by its Diversified Infrastructure business, jointly invested in the Gigapower joint venture that is expected to build fiber connectivity to an initial 1.5 million customer locations beyond AT&T’s current footprint. Notably, AT&T will rely on a commercial wholesale open access platform, where multiple providers share space and compete for customers over the same fiber infrastructure. Could Gigapower alter the historical reluctance of U.S. telcos toward such networks? How will the deployment impact open access projects throughout the United States? Get the facts from this special Broadband Breakfast Live Online event.
- Bill Hogg, CEO of Gigapower
- Erin Scarborough, President, Broadband and Connectivity Initiatives at AT&T
- Adam Waltz, Managing Director at BlackRock Infrastructure
- Roger Entner, Founder and Lead Analyst of Recon Analytics
- Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast
Adam Waltz is a Managing Director in BlackRock’s Global Infrastructure Fund focused on investments in digital infrastructure opportunities across fiber networks, data centers, and wireless infrastructure. He serves as a Board Director at Gigapower, BlackRock’s joint venture with AT&T to develop a commercial wholesale open access platform on a state-of-the-art fiber network.
Bill Hogg leads Gigapower, an open access, wholesale fiber broadband company that builds and operates fiber solutions lit for fast connectivity and designed for network resiliency and reliability. Bill retired as President, AT&T Technology Operations, and was responsible for all planning, investment, engineering, construction, delivery, and assurance of AT&T’s wireless and wireline networks. Previously, Bill served as President-Technology Development, responsible for the development of AT&T’s products and services, digital experiences for customers, and systems supporting the operations across AT&T’s networks and services.
Erin Scarborough leads the team responsible for AT&T’s efforts to connect more Americans to greater possibility through fiber and wireless 5G investment initiatives, participating in government funding programs and public private partnerships. She and her team are taking a strategic, state-by-state approach working closely with state and local governments as they assess their broadband access, affordability and adoption needs. She also leads the combined broadband and mobility product management teams and has cross-functional responsibility for product profitability, pricing, customer experience, product design, multi-year roadmaps, development, and value-add services across the product portfolios.
Roger Entner advises telecom, media and technology companies on strategic and tactical business as well as public policy issues to allow them to compete better in the marketplace. Some of the challenges he helped to address are mobile market trends and business drivers and how to position themselves for growth and profitability, TMT convergence, bundling, changes in media consumption, software-defined networking, transition from MVNO to MNO, as well as providing the evidence and arguments for light touch wireless regulation and spectrum allocation for 5G. Under Roger’s leadership, Recon Analytics has launched the fastest and most agile telecom insights service based on more than 400,000 respondents across consumer mobile, home internet and business telecom customers.
Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.
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