Microsoft and internet provider Packerland Broadband, a division of CCI Systems, have entered an agreement to provide broadband internet access to approximately 82,000 people living in rural regions of Wisconsin and Michigan in the US over the next four years.
On average over 43% of people living in rural Wisconsin and 34% of people living in rural Michigan lack access to broadband.
“This partnership with Packerland Broadband will help us address the rural broadband gap in northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft.
“Broadband has become the electricity of the 21st century, essential for education, business, agriculture and health care,” he added. “Microsoft’s Airband Initiative is focused on bringing this necessity of life to two million people in rural counties by 2022.”
Packerland will use a combination of technologies including TV White Spaces and wi-fi hardware developed with support from Microsoft, to extend the reach of its existing hybrid fiber-coax and wireless delivery platforms.
“Partnering with Microsoft allows us to bring new services and push our services further into the rural landscape in our region and beyond,” said Cory Heigl, vice president of Packerland Broadband.
“We are the people we serve, and in this part of the world, we want to make an impact for the better,” Heigl added. “Our partnership with Microsoft will help us to influence lives by improving at-home education, enhancing economic opportunities, keeping up with health care advancements and furthering the agricultural innovation of our rural communities.”
Packerland expects to provide approximately 33,750 people with broadband by the end of 2019 and 82,000 people by 2022. As part of the Packerland-Microsoft project, Packerland will provide Windows devices, Office 365 and other cloud-based services to small businesses, consumers and students, as well as digital literacy skills training.