JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi telecommunications company says four public universities are joining a state-owned fiber optic network.

Ridgeland-based CSpire says it invested more than $5 million after the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services awarded it a contract to run the Mississippi Optical Network.

Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi Valley State University are being connected for the first time. They join Mississippi's other four public universities, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers research center in Vicksburg and Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis.

The high-speed network lets researchers transmit large amounts of data used for some projects. CSpire says upgrades have nearly quadrupled the network's bandwidth and increased its reliability.

CSpire has an eight-year contract to run the network at $1 million a year.