(The Center Square) - Communities in Arizona's Mohave County will see an acceleration of a plan to expand high-speed fiber internet access via a new private investment, giving the rural Arizona residents faster connectivity than some in the heart of the valley.
Kingman-based Wecom Inc. announced Monday a new buy-in from Searchlight Capital Partners to improve Arizona's digital infrastructure in rural areas of the state. The new infusion of funds is expected to offer some of the fastest internet speeds in the country to hundreds of thousands of households.
A spokesman for Wecom said the private equity firm is prepared to invest "hundreds of millions of dollars" into rural Arizona.
Faster internet speeds mean work-from-home opportunities for residents who would otherwise not be available. Rural students suffered disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic after schools shifted to online learning, leaving those without broadband access disadvantaged. With the proliferation of telemedicine, broadband access also means more access to health care for residents who may already live miles away from the closest doctor's office.
"Hundreds of thousands of rural households and businesses in Arizona lack equal access to high-speed Internet service," said Darren Glatt, partner and head of digital infrastructure at Searchlight. "Wecom's long track record of providing reliable, best-in-class services to Arizona communities for more than 60 years makes it the perfect partner to help bridge the digital divide in the state."
Wecom had initially received a $10 million Broadband Development Grant from the state in July 2022 with the goal of expanding high-speed broadband in Mohave County.
"Mohave County has led the state in bringing broadband Internet to our rural residents and our partnership with Wecom is making it happen," said Mohave County Supervisor Jean Bishop. "I am excited to see Wecom and Searchlight continue to expand here and bring fast, affordable, and reliable internet to other Arizona counties that need it."
The company's fiber expansion will also extend into the Hualapai Nation with help from a U.S. Department of Agriculture ReConnect grant.
"Investing in high-quality broadband infrastructure to help bridge the digital divide is a core Searchlight investment strategy," said Ajit Pai, former Federal Trade Commission chairman and partner at Searchlight. "Today, Searchlight is the largest investor in residential fiber to the home in the U.S. Fiber broadband provides communities with much more than just Internet access - it gives consumers a gateway into the 21st century digital economy, enabling them to benefit from telehealth, remote education, job access, improved emergency services, and much more."