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By Hamza Jawad
Microsoft and Network Business Systems team up to bring broadband to more rural communities
by Hamza Jawad
Millions of citizens living in rural communities across the U.S. are deprived of high-speed internet access. In order to overcome this issue, Microsoft proposed a $10 billion program last year. Dubbed the Rural Airband Initiative, this program aims to bring broadband internet to two million such people in the country by July, 2022.
As part of this initiative, the tech giant formed a partnership with RADWIN a couple of months ago, in order to develop TV white space solutions. Then, last month, the firm teamed up with Agile Networks to bring broadband to 110,000 people living in rural Ohio, U.S.
Microsoft's journey towards high-speed internet access for unserved people in the country seems to be continuing at a fine pace, with the company now announcing a new agreement with internet service provider Network Business Systems as part of its Airband Initiative. The partnership will be delivering broadband to approximately 126,700 unserved people living in rural communities in U.S. states including Illiniois, Iowa and South Dakota.
Shelley McKinley, Head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft, commented on the new agreement, noting:
Network Business Systems will be building and deploying wireless internet access networks across rural areas in the aforementioned states using several different technologies - most significantly TV white spaces. Microsoft has been trying to utilize white spaces, even outside of the U.S., for several years now. The first TV white space network was launched by the firm in 2015, following successful initiation of pilot projects that employed use of the same technology. A partnership with the Indian government was also announced later that year, focusing on similar projects.
Microsoft has noted the significance of broadband internet access in today's digital economy. With that said, the Redmond-based giant will be hoping that this partnership will help revitalize the technological, educational, and healthcare sector in rural communities across the three states.
A 16-year-old Yankton boy has filed a discrimination complaint against Taco John's International for an incident that took place while he was working for a store in the southeast South Dakota city.
The young man also has set up a web site to draw attention to the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered teens and to force punishment for the manager who he says demeaned him.
Tyler Brandt says he was forced by the restaurant's night manager to wear a name tag that read "gaytard" during a shift June 23.
Brandt, who is openly gay, says he wore the name tag because he feared losing his job, and that he was berated with the homosexual slur in front of customers and co-workers when he asked if he could take it off.
Brant resigned the following day.
He filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. It alleges that Taco John's of Yankton and Taco John's International violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Brandt said he hopes his actions draw attention to the issue of workplace bullying.
What should have been a fun way to kick off the Fourth of July weekend quickly turned tragic for a Custer man who choked to death while trying to speedily eat hot dogs during a competitive eating contest.
The crowd at Way Park in Custer, just across from the county courthouse, was stunned Thursday afternoon when one of six contestants ? Walter Eagle Tail, 47 ? began to choke while trying to win the contest.
Paramedic who swiftly were called to his side tried in vain to save him. Eagle Tail was transported by ambulance to Custer Regional Hospital, where he died, authorities said.
"There was someone doing CPR when we arrived," Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler said on Monday. "Basically, he probably just suffocated. It got lodged in his throat and they couldn't get it out."
"It all happened within minutes," he added. "I think everybody was pretty well shocked about it."
Eagle Tail's untimely death put a damper on the festivities sponsored by the Custer Chamber of Commerce. Organizers cancelled a planned pie eating contest for the next day.
Wheeler said he was not sure if the death will prompt organizers to make changes to the contest next year.
As hurricane-force gusts toppled trees, whipped the air into whiteout conditions, and brought temperatures down to 15 degrees, most businesses across Rapid City took drastic action on Oct. 4.
The Target store closed early and allowed 20 employees to stay the night in the building. Triple Crown Hospitality, which owns three hotels, not only let its employees sleep over, it extended the offer to their family members.
But nine employees at Sam's Club on Eglin Street, including a pregnant 19-year-old, were not so lucky.
This week, the Journal spoke with two Sam's Club employees who said workers were forced outside into the recording-breaking blizzard.
Unable to drive through snow-choked streets, and dressed only in fall clothing, the employees say they spent an hour trudging to a nearby hotel.
When called for comment, the Eglin Street Sam's Club referred the Journal to the store's corporate office in Arkansas; the chain is owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Carrie Moore, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement on Friday that Sam's Club guides its managers to take every precaution to ensure the safety of its employees.
She said that the manager on duty had elected to send workers to a nearby hotel during the blizzard because he was concerned that the store would lose power.
"In hindsight, we recognize that different decisions could have been made to maximize associate safety," she wrote. "We have carefully reviewed our Disaster Response procedures with our Rapid City team to ensure incidents like these do not occur in the future.?
Ronny Miller, 19, who has worked at Sam's Club since May and is eight months pregnant, hopes that no employee has to experience what she did on Oct. 4.
That Friday, Miller arrived at 1 p.m. for her shift. As the winds howled outside and snow began to fall, the store stood empty of customers.
"We were all standing around doing nothing," Miller said.
She said the manager on duty told the employees that he had called the company's corporate office repeatedly to see if the store could close early.
At about 6:30 p.m., the manager told the workers that corporate officials had finally given permission to close.
But by that point, driving home had become a near impossibility for the employees. A 'no travel' advisory was in effect.
Miller said her car was buried in three feet of drifting snow.
Miller said the manager responded that corporate had told him that the employees had to vacate the building.
"We were like, 'why can't we just stay in the store?'" Miller said. "'We have all the food we need. We have TVs. We have pull-out beds on the walls that we could just lay on for the night. I mean, c'mon?'"
Miller said the manager told them that he was sorry, but there was nothing he could do.
The Journal is not naming the Friday on-duty manager because he could not be reached. The newspaper asked Sam's Club if it would allow a reporter to speak with the manager, but an official said the Friday manager was no longer with the company.
Asked whether he had been fired, the company's corporate office said that its policy is not to discuss the employment history of individuals.
Ranchers in South Dakota fear they may lose everything after a freak storm dumped up four feet of snow in parts of the state last week, killing as many as 100,000 cattle.
Matt Kammerer, a 45-year-old rancher whose family has operated in South Dakota?s Meade County since 1882, told FoxNews.com that he lost 60 cattle in the storm, or one-third of his entire herd.
?You?re talking about $120,000 of assets that are just gone,? Kammerer said Friday by phone. ?And we still owe the banks, too. It?s like driving a brand-new pickup off a cliff and still having to make payments.?
Kammerer painted a gruesome scene north of Rapid City, where a record 23 inches of snow fell.
?It?s just unreal,? he said. ?There are cattle that are 8 or 9 miles away from the pasture they were in, just lying dead. And within that whole stretch, it?s just dead cow after dead cow, where they?ve gotten caught in dams, streams, fences, you name it. They?re dead everywhere.?
Carcasses of mature cows as well as calves were floating downstream local waterways in droves, Kammerer said, stoking fears of a potential outbreak of disease.
?If you don?t get those picked up and buried, you?re looking at the possibility of disease or possibly contamination,? he said. ?You?ve got to get them all picked up.?
Most ranchers in the state lost anywhere between 50 to 75 percent of their herds, according to Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, which represents 1,500 ranching operations.
Complicating matters is this weekend?s forecast, which calls for heavy rain and strong winds just a week after the early fall blizzard. Crews in South Dakota and North Dakota are also still working to restore power to thousands of customers left in the dark.