Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and RTO Wireless have inked an agreement to provide broadband Internet access to more than 290,000 people living in unserved rural regions of New York and Maine. The partnership is part of Microsoft's Airband Initiative, which aims to extend broadband access to 2 million people in unserved portions of rural America by July 4, 2022.
RTO Wireless will use TV white spaces, Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), LoRaWAN and traditional spectrum bands to deliver fixed and mobile wireless services to rural markets within the United States, with initial rollouts across 16 counties in Maine and 20 counties in New York.
"Without reliable Internet access, many people living in rural America are unable to take advantage of the same opportunities as their urban neighbors," said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft's head of technology and corporate responsibility. "We are excited to partner with RTO Wireless to bring broadband to students, farmers, educators and business owners across the Southern Tier and North Country of New York and western Maine so that they have an equal opportunity to learn, grow, contribute and prosper in the 21st century economy."
"The TV white spaces technology ecosystem championed by Microsoft provides a critical low-band function enabling tremendous RF propagation over a large service area," said Steve Hubbard, CEO of RTO Wireless. "Microsoft is contributing tremendous resources to solving the lack of broadband options in rural America. Joining the Microsoft Airband Initiative will enable RTO to enhance the educational, healthcare and agricultural services that can be provided to the rural communities. RTO is proud to launch its initial networks in New York and Maine with an impressive consortium of technology partners to deliver exciting applications and services."
This partnership between Microsoft and RTO Wireless will complement the already established "broadband for all" initiative in New York. In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature established the $500 million New NY Broadband Program. Three rounds of grants using a reverse-auction method have expended that $500 million and provided support to projects to deliver high-speed Internet access to unserved and underserved areas of the state.
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.
Besides RTO Wireless, other ISPs that are participating in the Airband Initiative include Declaration Networks Group and Packerland Broadband.