Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Nextlink Internet are partnering to bring broadband Internet to rural communities in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. The agreement is intended to enable Nextlink to expand its coverage areas and is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which is focused on extending broadband access to more than 3 million unserved people in rural America by July 2022.
"It's time to deliver on the connectivity promises that have been made to people across the country, and this partnership will help do that for many who have been left behind and unserved in the heartland of America," said Shelley McKinley, vice president, Technology and Corporate Responsibility, at Microsoft. "In the past two years with our Airband Initiative, we've seen that progress is possible - particularly when the public and private sectors come together. Partnerships with regional ISPs like Nextlink that have the desire and wherewithal to provide Internet connectivity are a critical part of closing the broadband gap and helping families, children, farmers, businesses and whole communities to not only survive, but thrive in the 21st century."
Nextlink will deploy a variety of broadband connectivity technologies to expand coverage, including wireless technologies leveraging TV white spaces in select markets. Nextlink will continue its deployments in Texas and Oklahoma and immediately begin deployment efforts in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois, with rollouts planned through 2024.
Nextlink CEO Bill Baker said: "Nextlink is tremendously excited about the opportunity to join forces with Microsoft. This agreement will accelerate the rollout of high-speed broadband access to underserved areas that are desperate for this critical service. This in turn will make those areas more attractive for employers who require high-speed broadband to operate. 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. The overall impact to rural communities in terms of job creation and increased viability for all employers is tremendous."
The companies will also work together to ensure that, once connectivity is available, digital skills training will be available as well.