On Thursday, Microsoft and Network Business Systems announced plans to bring broadband internet access to rural communities in Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota, bringing connectivity to approximately 126,700 unserved people, according to a press release.

This connectivity partnership addresses a serious need, as 36% of people in rural Illinois, 22% of those in Iowa, and 25% of those in South Dakota currently live without internet access, said the release.

Microsoft’s partnership with Network Business Systems contributes to the Airband Initiative, Microsoft’s mission to provide broadband access to 2 million unserved people in rural US areas by July 2022. Network Business Systems will build and implement a wireless internet network system that is able to extend over long distances and various types of terrain, said the release.

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“Bringing broadband internet to underserved areas is more important than ever, especially as industries including education, healthcare and business are depending more on internet access,” said Kari Hofmann, general manager of Network Business Systems, in the release.

Not only does broadband internet create opportunities for education, healthcare, and precision agriculture, it also opens the doors for businesses to expand. By giving internet access to rural communities, the talent pool opens up for businesses, opportunity for work is given to more people, the ability for remote work is an option, and companies have the ability to open satellite offices.

Lack of internet access is a national issue, with 19.4 million Americans living in rural areas without connectivity, said the release. The proceeds from the Airband Initiative will be reinvested into the program, in an effort to provide more broadband to more areas.

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The Airband Initiative isn’t the only program trying to expand connectivity. Alphabet’s Project Loon brought balloon-powered internet to rural and natural disaster-ridden areas like Kenya and Puerto Rico. And SpaceX aims to bring satellite internet networks to the entire world.

“Everyone deserves to have access to broadband–no matter where they live–because access to broadband is access to digital opportunity,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of technology and corporate responsibility, in the release.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Microsoft and Network Business Systems teamed together to bring broadband internet connectivity to rural communities in Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota.
  • This effort is a part of Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, which aims to bring broadband internet to 2 million unserved Americans by July 2022.