Regional ISP Nextlink Internet has joined the Microsoft Airband Initiative as part of its ongoing efforts to bring high-speed broadband to rural communities in the US Midwest.
The provider, which uses a combination of fiber and fixed wireless access network technologies, will use technology based on Microsoft's Airband, which makes use of TV white space spectrum, to help expand its coverage area across unserved and under-served areas of Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, it said.
Microsoft expects its Airband program to bring high-speed broadband to approximately 3 million residents by July 2022.
As a recipient of the Federal Communication Commission's Connect America Fund (CAF), Nextlink already has deployed broadband in rural America. Microsoft and Nextlink also plan to partner to educate newly connected residents in digital skills so they can best leverage broadband for enhanced economic, health and social benefits.
"By itself, this project is going to generate hundreds of full-time, long-term jobs in rural communities as Nextlink builds out and services the required networks," said Nextlink CEO Bill Baker, in a statement. "The overall impact to rural communities in terms of job creation and increased viability for all employers is tremendous."
A huge disparity in speed remains across rural America. Newcastle, Calif., connects (barely) at 3.7 Mbit/s, according to recently released data from Satellite Internet. The rural city of Hampton, Ga., reaches more than 1 Gbit/s, the speed test found. Provider speeds vary, but Airband's monthly average speed reached 26.2 Mbit/s, according to one speed test.
It faces an uphill climb, but Viasat is exploring a plan to build 300 low-earth orbit satellites that could deliver low-latency broadband service and qualify for the US Rural Digital Opportunities Fund.
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