REDMOND, Wash. -- Native Network and Microsoft have partnered to provide broadband Internet access to about 73,500 unserved people in rural communities in Washington and Montana as part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to extend broadband access to 2 million people in unserved portions of rural America by July 4, 2022.
In the United States, 19.4 million people in rural areas lack access to a broadband Internet connection, including approximately 40 percent of people living in rural Montana and 10% of those dwelling in rural Washington. The FCC has reported that about 35% of Americans living on tribal lands lack broadband access.
Through this partnership, Native Network will provide affordable, hybrid, fixed-wireless broadband Internet access -- including TV White Spaces -- to tribes within Flathead Reservation in Montana as well as Lummi Nation and Swinomish Tribe in Washington.
"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," said Microsoft President Brad Smith.
"We are thrilled that Microsoft's goals align with Native Network's, which was formed in 2015 to work exclusively on telecom and technology projects in Indian country with a recent emphasis on distribution networks for Internet access in unserved and underserved markets," said Jenny Rickel, Native Network co-founder and chief operating officer.
This partnership between Microsoft and Native Network will complement efforts from Governor Jay Inslee in Washington and Governor Steve Bullock in Montana to expand broadband access in the states. Governors in both states have offered strong support for closing the rural broadband gap in the U.S.
"As governor of a state that is home to an incredible number of world-class companies and startups, I see every day all the ways that technology is transforming every job, every company and every industry," said Washington Governor Inslee. "The Internet, in particular, is changing the way we access healthcare, education, job opportunities and more, yet millions of Americans living in rural areas still lack access."
Added Montana Governor Steve Bullock: "Our Indian nations and all of rural Montana should have the same expectation of wireless connectivity as those living in more urban areas. We're looking forward to seeing this technology employed in service of some of our most remote citizens and appreciate the hard work of Microsoft in deploying it."
The Microsoft Airband Initiative is focused on bringing broadband coverage to rural Americans through 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.
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