In 2017, Microsoft initiated a $10 billion program, the Rural Airband Initiative. The aim of this program was to provide broadband internet access to millions of people living in rural communities in the United States by 2022. As part of this initiative, the tech giant has collaborated with companies like RADWIN and Agile Networks in the past. More recent advancements on this front includes partnerships with firms such as Network Business Systems and Native Network.
Today, a new digital alliance with the U.S. state of Vermont has been announced by Microsoft. The team-up will aim to further the goals of the Airband Initiative by helping boost broadband connectivity and expanding youth access to several skill programs.
Vermont Governor Phill Scott commented on the partnership during a budget address to the U.S. State Legislature, noting:
"We appreciate Microsoft’s commitment to helping us overcome the broadband gap in rural Vermont, contributing to a better quality of life and greater economic opportunity. This new partnership also supports our priority of growing Vermont’s economy by equipping students and adults with the digital skills needed to create new innovations, pursue high-wage, high-growth careers or start their own businesses."
The Redmond giant will be working with its ISP partner RTO Wireless and other local partners for the provision of broadband services not only in rural areas in Vermont, but in the states of New York and Maine as well. Furthermore, it will aim to deliver access to computer science education to all students, with Microsoft Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) potentially being expanded to Vermont as well. Programs particularly focused toward the improvement of digital skills may also be introduced. The ones currently under discussion include YouthSpark, DigiGirlz, Imagine Academy, and more.
Interestingly, Microsoft has also revealed that its goal of providing broadband access to two million people as part of the Rural Airband Initiative was recently increased to three million - perhaps due to recent partnerships helping it approach its former target much quicker than anticipated.