The FCC isn't the only organization that wants to connect rural Americans with high-speed internet. According to an announcement published by Microsoft today, the tech giant will be partnering up with ISP Nextlink Internet to bring broadband connectivity to around one million individuals in unserved or underserved rural areas. Outside of those areas, more than 9 million citizens are expected to receive broadband access.
This plan is part of Microsoft's "Airband Initiative," which is centered around closing the internet speed gap between rural and urban (or suburban) citizens. As is often the case with ambitious plans of this nature, though, the end goal is a long way off -- it will take time for Nextlink and Microsoft to expand broadband coverage enough to hit their targets.
Nextlink's broadband rollout will take place in the years leading up to 2024, and some of the states covered by this deal include Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, and Iowa. Nextlink was already deploying broadband tech to rural parts of Texas and Oklahoma before this deal, so those areas will likely be the first to receive full access.
"It's time to deliver on the connectivity promises that have been made to people across the country,"
"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 Microsoft VP Shelley McKinley in a statement. "...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."
Microsoft does not specify how much this agreement will cost them, but even if the amount is fairly high, it will benefit the company to connect as many people as possible to the internet. After all, with Microsoft increasingly treating its products as "live services" and moving its productivity tools (such as Office 365) to the cloud, more high-speed internet users leads to more potential customers.
Clarification: This article's wording previously suggested Nextlink's broadband rollout would occur during 2024. In reality, it's already underway and is expected to be finished by 2024. We've updated the text to reflect this information.