Infrastructure Investor Quotes MWC’s Robert Wood on Texas’s $7.5 Billion Earmark for Water, Energy, Broadband Projects

December 21, 2023

On Nov. 21, 2023,  McGuireWoods Consulting senior adviser Robert Wood was quoted in Infrastructure Investor discussing Texas’ passage of three statewide ballot propositions that create dedicated funds to assist in financing water projects, electric generating facilities and expand high-speed broadband access. The funds will earmark $7.5 billion.

Wood noted that the statewide funds will add to federal efforts, explaining that “[Texas had] a little bit of a disagreement with the Feds over exactly what advancing broadband looks like [over pole replacement]. But again, that’s $75 million out of $5 billion. It’s not like [the state has] gone rogue and is trying to do something that’s inconsistent with the [federal government’s] overall mission.”

Expanding broadband throughout the state is a particular challenge, due to the sheer size of Texas. Wood noted that there will have to some flexibility.  “I think everybody knows, including the Feds, that there’s places in West Texas and across the western U.S. where running fibre is not a viable alternative; we just don’t have the population density. We’re going to have to start accepting that it may not be fibre [there], it may be fixed wireless.”

The financing will be a good way to get new players in business involved in growing the state’s critical infrastructure. Robert noted that:

“The people who are paying attention to [this programme] right now are the incumbent players who already provide internet [in the state]. But there’s no question that there’s going to be holes and there’s going to be room for new players to fill in spots where the incumbent players either are not interested or not competitive.”

“Certainly a big challenge is going to be the suppliers and the workforce. There are a lot of provisions in [the IIJA related to the Buy American Act].”

“But do we have the supply chain to be able to do this? That’s questionable, and anytime there’s a questionable thing like that, there’s an opportunity for business to step in and figure out what those needs are.”

Wood served in senior roles in the Texas state government for 23 years, including as associate deputy comptroller for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and as an assistant commissioner at the Texas Department of Agriculture.

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