A multibillion-dollar investment planned by Cox Communications will help power the next generation of internet users, including Oklahomans and others who will delve more and more into things like virtual reality, the company said.
The investment will coincide with broader initiatives launched 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 dedicated billions of dollars to the effort, as robust internet access more and more is considered vital to the nation’s future. In the Sooner State, lawmakers have proposed developing a state office to spend overseas and coordinate investments in broadband upgrades.
“Connectivity is at the heart of everything we do. With new applications of technology from virtual reality classrooms to autonomous vehicles to the metaverse, people will require increased bandwidth to power their digital futures,” Cox Communications President Mark Greatrex said in a release. “Included in this investment is our commitment to bring robust and reliable services to underserved communities and to be the internet provider customers count on to make those valuable connections a reality.”
In its announcement, Georgia-based Cox said it will make a multibillion-dollar annual infrastructure investment through the next several years to build a 10-Gigabit-capable, fiber-based network. Upgrades will enable the company to support a “growing host” of high-bandwidth applications useful to consumers and businesses across its 18-state footprint.
Cox has already invested more than $19 billion over the past decade to improve high-speed internet, TV, phone, home security and other services, including cloud-based services. It added that investments paid off as the company was positioned to meet expanded needs of businesses and others during the pandemic.
In coming years, Cox said it will focus more on bridging the digital divide that separates many in 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 looking to leverage federal funding, it said. The company will collaborate with local leaders to drive smart community development, utilizing technologies to enhance 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, has said that an office to overseas spending would help ensure not only that the state follows federal spending and reporting requirements but also that it makes the most of one-time funds. The overarching goal in creating a broadband office would be to deliver high-speed internet service to 95% of Oklahomans by 2028.
Oklahoma was identified to receive at least $100 million in broadband funding provided in the recent federal infrastructure bill known to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The state was identified to receive about $167 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for broadband. Additionally, the state Legislature last year earmarked $42 million in funding to incentivize internet providers to build in underserved areas.