Watch Communications and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced an agreement aimed at expanding rural broadband availability in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. The partnership is part of Microsoft's Airband Initiative, which is focused on extending broadband access to 3 million people in rural America by July 2022.
Watch Communications plans to deploy a variety of broadband connectivity technologies to provide coverage, with an emphasis on wireless technologies leveraging TV white spaces in lower population density or terrain-challenged areas. The areas slated for connection include 50 counties in Indiana, 22 counties in Illinois, and most counties in Ohio.
"Every person deserves the same opportunity. But too often and in too many places, these opportunities are limited by where people live and their access to reliable and affordable broadband access," said Shelley McKinley, general manager, Technology and Corporate Responsibility, Microsoft. "Microsoft is working across the country to close this gap. We're partnering with Watch Communications to improve broadband access in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio and build on the incredible work being done by state and local leaders on this issue on behalf of their citizens."
"Public-private partnerships, collaboration and understanding local initiatives are key to enabling connectivity success. Providing rural broadband can be difficult, so working as a team to solve the digital divide requires partners. We are excited to partner with Microsoft on this initiative," said Greg Jarman, chief operating officer, Watch Communications.
In addition, Watch Communications and Microsoft will work together to ensure that once connectivity is available, people know how to use it and can get the training needed to participate in the digital economy, access educational opportunities and access telemedicine.
Watch Communications was a recent award winner of funds from the FCC to extend broadband services in Indiana and Ohio.
The partnership between Watch Communications and Microsoft is expected to cover:
- More than 1 million people in Indiana, more than 440,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved
- Approximately 2.5 million people in Ohio, more than 288,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved
- More than 275,000 people in Illinois, more than 80,000 of whom are people in rural areas that are currently unserved