Packerland, Microsoft team on rural Internet

Feb. 26, 2018
Packerland Broadband and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) have teamed up to provide broadband Internet access to approximately 82,000 ...

Packerland Broadband and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) have teamed up to provide broadband Internet access to approximately 82,000 people living in rural regions of northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan over the next four years.

The Packerland partnership is part of Microsoft's TechSpark Wisconsin program to introduce digital initiatives, including the Rural Airband Initiative, to foster greater economic opportunity and job creation in northeast Wisconsin.

"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. Microsoft's Airband Initiative is focused on bringing this necessity of life to 2 million people in rural counties by 2022."

"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. 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 will use a mix of technologies to provide broadband to its customers in rural communities, including TV white spaces and WiFi hardware developed with support from Microsoft, to extend the reach of its existing hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) and wireless delivery platforms. Packerland expects to cover approximately 33,750 people by the end of 2019, and approximately 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. Packerland will also leverage Microsoft Azure as part of its operations management.

Through its Rural Airband Initiative, Microsoft aims to deliver broadband to 2 million people by 2022 through commercial partnerships with local companies like Packerland, leveraging a mixture of technologies including TV white spaces, and through patent sharing. The initiative also includes digital skills training for people in newly connected communities. Proceeds from Airband connectivity projects will be reinvested to provide additional rural areas with broadband.

Packerland delivers modern telecommunications services to more than 60 rural communities throughout Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The company deployed DOCSIS 3.1 in Crystal Falls, MI, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, last February.

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