A firm focus on the future is endemic to the culture of every successful technology company. At C Spire, we don’t spend much time reflecting on the past. Ask any of my 1,900 coworkers, and they’ll likely tell you some version of the same thing.
As we approached our latest milestone anniversary, though, I began to reflect on the truly wild ride of the past 35 years—beginning in 1988 as Cellular South, when we were the first company to offer wireless on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and since 2011 as C Spire, when our name was changed to reflect who we are and what we strive to be—Customer inSPIREd.
We’re a Mississippi-based company founded, led and driven by Mississippians, competing shoulder-to-shoulder against multinational corporations that answer to shareholders, not their employees or customers. At C Spire, we are indeed inspired by our customers. We are driven by the dedicated people who lay fiber to your home, maintain networks, answer the line when you call and proficiently execute in a wide variety of technology-based disciplines. They’re your neighbors, friends and family members, and they’re invested in you. To say we have skin in the game is an understatement.
Together, we are the largest privately owned wireless company in the country, and the sixth largest overall. Customers across Mississippi rely on our LTE and 5G wireless network every day. Our Gigabit fiber keeps homes and businesses speeding ahead with internet at the speed of light, enabling homes to become smarter and more entertaining.
Every step of the way, our team’s determination and accomplishments have added to the foundation that allows us to invest back into our communities. We have accelerated our course through a planned three-year, $1 billion investment in fiber infrastructure and network enhancements we began in 2021. We are bringing broadband internet to a growing number of cities and rural areas of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. And at the end of every fiber line and 5G connection is a real person or family, a new business getting off the ground, and innovators turning their ingenuity into the communities and economies of the future.
We believe it is incumbent upon the leaders of today to create that future for the next generation. Nearly 90 percent of students attending public schools in Mississippi have access to issued laptops or tablets, creating a huge demand for network resources. That’s why our engineers are using artificial intelligence to identify network usage increases at cell sites near school campuses around the state and redistribute traffic where it’s needed most, at a moment’s notice.
We maintain the vital Mississippi Optical Network, also known as the MissiON network, to support research and education at every public university and community college in the state, and to facilitate collaboration among educators and students at these institutions. This network also supported distance learning for more than 200,000 students in the community college system during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Through our Tech Movement initiative, we host our annual C3 Coding Challenge and support Base Camp Academy, both of which immerse students in the world of coding languages and prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. In 2021, we supported legislation to make computer science part of the curriculum in every K-12 public and charter school in the state by 2024, and donated $1 million toward training teachers for the task.
The aggressiveness of our leadership made us among the first carriers in the U.S. to offer the iPhone 4 to customers over a decade ago. In 2013, when only four cities in the U.S. had Gigabit fiber internet available to homes, we started an ambitious fiber-to-the-home initiative that carries ultra-fast internet to homes and businesses now available in more than 100 communities. We plan to double that number across Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee by 2025.
In our shared future, we envision networks with zero downtime and seamless app integrations that intuitively connect any space. Automated systems with machine learning that find and fix issues before there's a problem. Biometric and AI applications that help us think one step ahead. And, of course, the wireless and fiber networks to make it all hum.
If past is prelude, together we have an exceedingly bright future. Forward thinking—it’s one way we stay customer inspired.
Hu Meena is President and CEO of C Spire in Ridgeland, Miss.