Last year, Microsoft proposed a $10 billion program that is aimed towards provision of high-speed internet to people living in rural communities across the United States. The 'Rural Airband Initiative' is supposed to serve two million such U.S. citizens in the aforementioned manner by 2022. In July, the tech giant formed a partnership with RADWIN in order to advance this goal, while agreements with Agile Networks and Network Business Systems were held in the following months as well, with the same purpose in mind.
Today, Microsoft has announced that it is teaming up with Native Network in a new partnership. As part of this agreement, 73,500 people living in rural communities in the U.S. states of Washington and Montana will be provided broadband internet.
Currently, 10% of the people living in rural Washington and 40% of the people living in rural Montana do not have access to high-speed internet, according to a report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This report also mentions that 35% of Americans living in tribal areas face similar concerns. Native Network will, therefore, also be deploying wireless internet access service networks in various tribal lands across the aforementioned states, including the Flathead Reservation in Montana. Furthermore, the Lummi Nation and Swinomish Tribe in Washington will be catered for as well.
Microsoft President Brad Smith commented on the partnership, noting:
"Broadband is the electricity of the 21st century and is critical for farmers, small-business owners, health-care practitioners, educators and students to thrive in today’s digital economy. The partnership with Native Network will help close the digital divide in rural Montana and Washington, bringing access to approximately 73,500 people within and around the tribal communities."
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and Native Network CEO Jenny Rickel also expressed delight at the potential benefits in terms of wireless connectivity this agreement brings for people living in both states.
Different technologies will be used in the provision of broadband access, including TV white spaces. Microsoft has a history of working with the aforementioned technology, even outside of the United States. With the first TV white space network being launched in Africa by the firm in 2015, projects employing use of the same technology were announced in partnership with the Indian government later that year as well.
With the new agreement, Microsoft will be hoping that it has made another significant stride towards its goal of providing broadband access to two million people across rural America within the next four years.