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Michigan company teams up with Microsoft to bring faster internet to Upper Peninsula


A Michigan company is partnering with Microsoft to get broadband internet access to residents of northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula in the coming years.

Using TV white spaces, wi-fi hardware and other technologies, Microsoft recently announced it would work with Iron Mountain-based company Packerland to expand its existing reach - the companies expect to expand broadband internet access to about 33,750 additional people by the end of 2019 and about 82,000 people in the region by 2022.

Parttnering with Microsoft allows us to bring new services and push our services further into the rural landscape in our region and beyond," Cory Heigl, vice president of Packerland Broadband said in a statement announcing the agreement. "We are the people we serve, and in this part of the world, we want to make an impact for the better."

The partnership comes as businesses and politicians look to address broadband internet access in rural communities, where options for increased connectivity can be more limited or difficult to access.

It's part of Microsoft's Rural Airband Initiative, which aims to bring broadband to an additional 2 million people across the country by 2022 and provide digital skills training in those communities. In a statement, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said the partnership will help bring "the electricity of the 21st century" to northern residents.

Federal lawmakers and members of the Trump administration are also looking to make internet access more reliable in remote locations. During the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting in Nashville, President Donald Trump praised farmers and said he'd act on issues brought up in an agriculture task force he created last year. As part of that, he signed presidential executive orders to "provide broader and faster, and better internet coverage." The Federal Communications Commission currently tracks data on broadband options in the U.S., but some lawmakers are hoping to improve that system. Legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, passed last week in the Senate aims to improve the reliability of mobile wireless coverage data available to "reflect the real-world experiences of consumers in rural America," according to a March 2 release from Manchin's office. The ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Michigan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, called broadband a priority when addressing members of the Michigan Agri-Business Association in January. "If we want to truly expand and create jobs all over Michigan and the quality of life that we want in small towns as well as big cities, you have to have high speed internet," Stabenow said at the time. U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, has called broadband access a growing need for farms and businesses in Michigan that contribute more than $101 billion to the state economy. In a recent statement, Bergman's office applauded the partnership between Packerland and Microsoft and said the Congressman would continue to support policies to make high-speed broadband more affordable and accessible. Original Source: Author: Lauren Gibbons

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