Major cable companies, like major telcos, generally abstained from applying for broadband stimulus funding, perhaps because like the telcos, they were concerned about net neutrality and other requirements that were imposed on broadband stimulus winners. But as a new broadband stimulus deal for Cox Business announced yesterday reveals, there may be other ways cable companies can benefit from the program.

Cox won a bid to build a 350-mile high-speed broadband network throughout Rhode Island for OSHEAN, a non-profit consortium that won a $21.7 million broadband stimulus grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to establish a network to interconnect anchor institution in the state.

“They put out a competitive bid and we were selected,” said Mark Scott, New England vice president for Cox Business in an interview.

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Several factors worked in Cox’s favor, said Scott, The cable company already serves 98% of Rhode Island and already had relationships with some of the organizations that are part of the OSHEAN consortium. OSHEAN previously acted as a connectivity buying consortium for member organizations that often bought Ethernet connections from Cox.

Cox will be pulling new fiber for the OSHEAN network but will be able to use existing ductwork and rights of way. “Our costs were lower than a new player coming into the marketplace,” said Scott.

In addition, Scott said OSHEAN liked the fact that the OSHEAN and Cox networks would be able to interconnect, facilitating telework for employees of member organizations.

Cox Business may have been particularly well suited to winning the OSHEAN stimulus business because of heavy emphasis on the enterprise market. Nevertheless it seems as though many of the same factors that favored Cox in New England could also work to the advantage of other incumbent cable operators in winning similar stimulus deals, depending how closely their footprint matches that of the specific stimulus project.

It’s also worth noting that with OSHEAN operating the Rhode Island network, any Net Neutrality concerns are OSHEAN’s, not Cox’s.

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