Microsoft launched the Rural Airband Initiative in 2017, with the aim of providing two million U.S. citizens living in rural areas with broadband internet access. Many collaborations have been undertaken by the tech giant since then in order to advance the program. The more recent ones include a digital alliance with the U.S. state of Vermont and a team-up with Native Network.
Today, Microsoft has announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs under the Airband Initiative. The basic purpose of this collaboration is to provide millions of Veteran Affairs' (VA) enrollees living in rural communities with broadband internet.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs', Veterans Health Administration's Office of Rural Health, there are currently 2.7 million veterans residing in rural areas, with 42% of them being unable to use VA telehealth services due to the unavailability of the required internet services. With broadband, Microsoft believes they will not only be able to access the aforementioned services, but also find suitable, well-paying jobs, take online education classes, and expand their own businesses.
Under the scope of this project specifically, Microsoft will be collaborating with VA to address many of these issues in the specified rural communities by providing them with high-speed internet services. The provision of capital, technological expertise, and training resources will be key components of the initiative. Veterans in the newly connected communities will also then be imparted with digital skills training. The tech giant hopes that this will help them capitalize on the various tools and services enabled post-connectivity.
Interestingly, Microsoft stated earlier this year that the Rural Airband Initiative will now be targeting three million people living in the rural U.S., instead of the initial goal of two million. The tech giant has now also revealed that so far, one million such rural residents have been served in 16 U.S. states.