Leigh Fox, president and CEO of altafiber, is winding down a two-year term as chair of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s board of directors, as disruptive a period as there’s ever been. His leadership is credited with helping the business community stay focused on a bold playbook for growing the region into a large, diverse, globally significant city rich with innovation, opportunity, and quality of life.
Fox’s vision for altafiber is no less bold, as he’s positioning the company’s communities to be leaders in the digital infrastructure space. He wants Cincinnati to have one of the most densely fiberized internet infrastructures in the U.S.—and also one of the most equitable. “Fiber infrastructure is incredibly important to the future of every city,” he told a Chamber member briefing in April. “It’s also incredibly important that everyone has access.”
The company’s fiber installation in this region is about 60 percent complete, Fox says, and will be substantially completed by the end of 2023. Like Chamber CEO Jill Meyer, who is steering the momentum of a Cincinnati/Dayton collaboration toward a shared vision for a combined mega-region, Fox thinks outside of the company’s traditional footprint for altafiber’s growth. He grew up in Cincinnati and earned his MBA at the University of Cincinnati, but “my consideration of what this region looks like doesn’t stop at the river.”
Fox refers to altafiber as the “artist formerly known as Cincinnati Bell.” His 22-year tenure and track record of decisive leadership gives him the privilege of having some fun with the company’s new name after its 100-plus years of life as a former Bell telephone subsidiary. He likes the new name, though, because alta means elevated. “I really wanted people to start to talk about and see the word ‘fiber’ and understand why infrastructure makes a difference in their lives,” he says. “We are truly leaning into innovation and growth.”
Cincinnati Bell’s 2021 acquisition by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners V in a deal valued at approximately $2.9 billion took the company private and opened up access to transformative capital. “Th e public markets were not giving us the access to capital needed to really invest in the future in the ways that we felt were appropriate,” says Fox. Scale matters because you can “take control of your destiny and be the ones in the driver’s seat.”
In Cincinnati, sitting in the driver’s seat means not only upgrading the digital infrastructure but also expanding affordability to it so that everyone benefits.
“It’s exciting for me personally to be able to do this work in the city I grew up in and to be able to say, once we’re done, that we’re incredibly modernized from an infrastructure standpoint,” says Fox. “There are really two issues with respect to digital equity: the access and affordability of the access. And so we’re working to solve both.”