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Cable Tech

Cox to invest $400M in network to reach underserved areas

Cox Communications said it will invest more than $400 million over the next three years to bring symmetrical 1-Gig speeds to more than 100,000 households in various unserved and underserved households in and around its legacy service footprint.

Among the early examples is a partnership with the city of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, that will bring fiber-fueled broadband services to more than 6,000 homes. Cox is backing that with a $20,000 donation from the James M. Cox Foundation to the Boys and Girls Club of Tahlequah to fund a Cox Innovation Lab that will provide tech and support to the community.

(Source: Kristoffer Tripplaar/Alamy Stock Photo)
(Source: Kristoffer Tripplaar/Alamy Stock Photo)

Cox said several other, similar projects are underway in parts of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Florida, Louisiana, California, Virginia and Arizona. Cox has set up a web site about the expansion and a way for prospective customers to sign up for service availability updates.

"Today's families are even more reliant upon fast Internet speeds to power their increasingly digital lives but many still lack access to a fast and reliable connection," Cox President Mark Greatrex said in a statement.

Network expansion being used to spur subscriber growth

Cox's private investment on network expansions in targeted areas centers on bridging the so-called "digital divide." However, several US operators are expanding their reach in various ways – through private investment or with the aid of government subsidies – to reach into underserved or unserved markets, or to "edge out" their networks to adjacent areas where competition (or limited competition) already exists. Recent examples include:

  • WideOpenWest (WOW) recently doubled its commitment to build fiber networks to 400,000 homes passed by 2027 in greenfield areas where the competitive intensity is relatively low. The move will effectively expand WOW's footprint by 21%. WOW is also continuing to edge-out its network to adjacent areas.
  • Charter Communications is expanding with private and subsidy funds. On the subsidy end, Charter was a major winner in phase I of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), and intends to participate in the broadband component of President Biden's big infrastructure bill.
  • Comcast said it is picking up the pace on edge-outs and greenfield network builds. After sitting out phase I of the RDOF auction, the operator is now eager to explore opportunities from federal, state and local funding aimed at bringing broadband to unserved and underserved areas. MoffettNathanson recently estimated that Comcast's in-footprint housing unit growth and customers from edge-outs could amount to about 600,000 annually.
  • Just last week, Midco said it will spend about $30 million in fiber infrastructure to bring 10-Gig speeds to its home town of Lawrence, Kansas, and its surrounding communities.

Together, those efforts will generally help operators generate broadband subscriber opportunities at a time in which the pace of broadband sub growth has slowed following spikes that occurred during earlier phases of the pandemic.

Like other cable operators, Cox is also focused on upgrading its existing networks to support 10-Gig capabilities. Back in February, the company pledged to make a "multibillion-dollar annual infrastructure investment over the next several years to build a 10-Gigabit-capable, fiber-based network."

Cox will deliver on that using a mix of DOCSIS 4.0 upgrades and deployments of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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