Cox and the Feds to Fund Massive Internet Investment

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Planned investments by Cox Communications and other operators of dedicated federal and state funds are expected to expand access and improve the reliability of Internet services in Oklahoma, including in rural areas of the state, in the years future. (Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash)

A planned multi-billion dollar investment by Cox Communications will help power the next generation of internet users, including Oklahomans and others who will increasingly immerse themselves in things like virtual reality, the company said.

The investment will coincide with broader initiatives in Oklahoma and across the country to expand access and upgrade Internet service for millions of Americans, including even those who live in the most rural areas. The federal government has poured billions into this effort, as robust internet access is increasingly seen as vital to the nation’s future. In the Sooner State, lawmakers have proposed creating a state office to oversee spending and coordinate investments in broadband upgrades.

“Connectivity is at the heart of everything we do. With new technology applications ranging from virtual reality classrooms to autonomous vehicles to the metaverse, people will need increased bandwidth to power their digital future,” said Cox Communications President Mark Greatrex, in a press release. “This investment includes our commitment to provide robust and reliable services to underserved communities and to be the Internet provider customers rely on to make those valuable connections a reality.”

In its announcement, Georgia’s Cox said it would make a multibillion-dollar annual investment in infrastructure over the next few years to build a 10-gigabit fiber-based network. The upgrades will allow the company to support a “growing host” of high-bandwidth applications useful to consumers and businesses in its 18 states.

Cox has already invested more than $19 billion over the past decade to improve broadband internet, television, telephone, home security and other services, including cloud-based services. He added that the investments paid off as the company was positioned to meet the increased needs of businesses and others during the pandemic.

In the coming years, Cox said he will focus more on bridging the digital divide that separates many rural and underserved communities from internet access. It will commit more than $400 million over the next three years to expand its footprint across the country, including in Oklahoma. Cox also intends to reach more underserved communities by partnering with local cities and towns seeking to leverage federal funding, he said. The company will work with local leaders to drive smart community development, using technology to improve public safety, utility management and more.

In Oklahoma, a state set to receive millions in federal relief funds dedicated to improving broadband infrastructure, Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, said an office overseeing spending would not only help ensure that the state meets federal spending and reporting requirements, but also that it gets the most out of one-time funds. The overarching goal of creating a broadband office would be to provide high-speed Internet service to 95% of Oklahomans by 2028.

Oklahoma has been identified to receive at least $100 million in broadband funding under the recent federal infrastructure bill known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The state has been identified to receive approximately $167 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for broadband. Additionally, the state legislature last year allocated $42 million in funding to incentivize ISPs to build in underserved areas.

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