Microsoft Corp. and Nextlink Internet are partnering to expand the Microsoft Airband Initiative, the Microsoft program dedicated to closing the broadband internet accessibility gap by investing in rural internet access infrastructure. 

Microsoft’s partnership with Nextlink will expand Nextlink’s existing deployments in Texas and Oklahoma, and begin new deployments in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska. 

“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 Shelley McKinley, vice president of technology and corporate responsibility at Microsoft. “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.” 

Nationally, Microsoft reports that 162 million people across the U.S. are not using the internet at broadband speeds, including approximately 29 million in the six states addressed by the Microsoft-Nextlink partnership. 

About 30% of people living in Iowa have access to internet at broadband speeds, McKinley told innovationIOWA earlier this year