Cox Business will break ground on a new fiber-optic backbone in Rhode Island in May that will provide low-cost broadband connectivity for health care, government, research and educational entities once it's completed.

Cox Business, which is a division of Cox Communications, beat out several other competitors to land the fiber build from Oshean. Oshean is a consortium of non-profit organizations that was formed to foster the development of a communications infrastructure for Rhode Island's research, educational, health care and public service community.

The agreement between Cox and Oshean includes an initial 20-year contract that can be extended for up to 40 years. Cox will not only install the new cable, but it will also be responsible for physical maintenance and upgrades. The project is slated to be finished by spring of 2013.

"Over the past decade, Cox Communications has built an advanced, full-service network throughout Rhode Island, making this one of the most broadband-ready states in the nation. Many of Oshean's members already choose Cox Business for our innovative solutions and commitment to service excellence," said Mark Scott, vice president of Cox Business. "Through this collaboration, Oshean members and anchor institutions can leverage this new, dedicated network and Cox's existing state-of-the-art broadband infrastructure to develop and market a wide range of exciting new applications in the fields of medicine, education and government."

Cox Business will provide Oshean with a 48-strand fiber network throughout the state. The new cyber infrastructure, called Beacon 2.0, will provide a fiber backbone that will pass through 38 of the 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island. Oshean will connect a wide range of hospitals, colleges, universities, community colleges, government agencies, schools and libraries to the backbone.

The project is largely funded by a $21.7 million federal stimulus Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant along with an additional $10 million in private funds. The BTOP grant and private funds are being used on projects in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Cox didn't say what the financial terms of its contract were.

"In just two short years, we will have built a robust network infrastructure that will benefit our member institutions and the citizens and communities they serve," said George Loftus, Oshean President and CEO. "Teaming up with Cox to get this job done builds on our already strong working relationship. Thanks to Cox's expertise and efficiency, we will be able to connect to 100 sites across the state – double the number we had initially proposed."