Microsoft has reached an agreement with Network Business Systems to provide internet to underserved communities. The tech giant will roll out its Airband project in Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota, serving 126,700 people.
“Everyone deserves to have access to broadband — no matter where they live — because access to broadband is access to digital opportunity,” said Shelley McKinley, head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft “Our partnership with Network Business Systems will help ensure that hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota can participate in the 21st century economy.”
To do so, the company will make use of a variety of technologies, including TV white spaces. These are essentially frequencies that have been assigned to television broadcast but are going unused.
Unlike traditional methods, broadband on white spaces can travel long distances and across all types of terrain. This makes it a great solution for rural areas, which experience a significant slowdown from traditional copper cables and have little fiber optic.
The 2 Million User Goal
The rollout follows similar deals in other US states, including Ohio, West Virginia, California, Maine, and Texas. Microsoft Airband has also been pushing for connectivity abroad, investing in several African and Asian startups in August. The access could be for vital education and employment in the modern age.
“Bringing broadband internet to underserved areas is more important than ever, especially as industries including education, healthcare and business are depending more on internet access,” said Kari Hofmann, general manager of Network Business Systems. “We are very glad that Microsoft is investing the money in championing the further use of TV white spaces.”
Even so, Microsoft has a long way to go. It estimates that 19.4 million people in rural America don’t have broadband access. By 2020, it wants to cut that number by 2 million, and this is another step towards the goal.