On Wednesday, Nextlink Internet and Microsoft Corp. announced a partnership that will help close the broadband gap in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas. It will bring high-speed internet to more than 9 million people in rural communities. The agreement will enable Nextlink to substantially expand their coverage areas and is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative. They will focus on addressing this national crisis, with the goal of extending broadband access to over 3 million people in rural America by July 2022.
The lack of broadband connectivity is a pervasive national issue and particularly acute in rural areas of the country. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) reports say at least 21 million Americans lack broadband access. The majority lives in rural areas that continue to lag the national rate of broadband usage. The issue is almost certainly larger than that. Other studies and data sources, including Microsoft data, have found that 162 million people across the United States are not using the internet at broadband speeds, including approximately 29 million people across Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.
The Vice president of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft, Shelley McKinley said, “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. 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”.