REDMOND, Wash. -- Network Business Systems, an Illinois-based wireless Internet provider, and Microsoft, unveiled an agreement to deliver broadband Internet access to rural communities in Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota, including approximately 126,700 people who are currently unserved.
This partnership addresses a critical need: About 36% of people living in rural Illinois, 22% in rural Iowa and 25% in rural South Dakota lack access to broadband Internet. In today's digital economy, broadband Internet access is a necessity, enabling individuals and small businesses to leverage advancements in technology, ranging from education and healthcare to precision agriculture and manufacturing, plus access to a range of cloud-based services to run their businesses and improve their lives.
The relationship with Network Business Systems is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to extend broadband access to 2 million unserved people in rural America by July 4, 2022. Network Business Systems will construct and deploy wireless Internet access networks using a mix of technologies including TV white spaces -- vacant spectrum that can travel over long distances and rough terrain, including the heavy foliage that is common in the Midwestern landscape.
"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."
Across the United States., 19.4 million people in rural areas lack access to broadband Internet. The Microsoft Airband Initiative focuses on bringing broadband coverage to rural Americans via commercial partnerships and investment in digital skills training for people in the newly connected communities. Proceeds from Airband connectivity projects will be reinvested into the program to expand broadband to more rural areas.
"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, which as been providing broadband services to rural customers for more than 18 years, partly by teaming up with local governments and agricultural companies. "We are very glad Microsoft is investing the money in championing the further use of TV white spaces."
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