Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) has announced plans to expand the Microsoft Airband Initiative to several new states next year, including Indiana. The effort, in which the company works with local partners to make broadband Internet access available to more people in rural communities, launched in 2017 in 13 states. Shelley McKinley, general manager of technology and corporate responsibility for Microsoft, says more than 19 million people who live in rural America do not have access to broadband, and the Airband Initiative aims to close that gap.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, McKinley says about 850,000 Hoosiers don’t have access to broadband, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission.
"In fact, our own Microsoft data shows that 4.3 million people in Indiana are not using broadband at broadband speeds, so as the world becomes more increasingly digital, that means that they don’t have the opportunity to participate in the economy as everyone else," said McKinley. "We know that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution to providing broadband to a community so we’re committed to understanding what are those unique challenges that are facing people in the state and we do that by working with a variety of local partners who are operating in the state that very much understand the challenges and issues."
McKinley says specific plans for Indiana will be announced in the future. She says the company looks forward to working with local and state partners, including Governor Eric Holcomb and Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch, who have made rural broadband an important part of the administration’s infrastructure agenda.
"With nearly 493,000 Hoosiers living in Internet darkness, it is encouraging to see Microsoft take the initiative in bringing broadband to rural areas in Indiana,” Crouch said in a statement to Inside INdiana Business. “Private sector investments like these are crucial in supporting the public sector initiatives happening at the federal and state levels and in addressing the overall broadband problem.”
Microsoft says the Airband Initiative will reach three million Americans in rural communities by July 4, 2022. The additional states, which also include California, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia, will see the program implemented by this time next year.
You can learn more about the Microsoft Airband Initiative by clicking here.