Microsoft to bolster internet access for Montana, Washington tribes

Microsoft has partnered with Native Network, a telecommunications company focused on connecting Native American tribes with one another, to deliver broadband internet access to rural communities in Montana and Washington.

Microsoft and Native Network plan to provide affordable fixed-wireless broadband internet access to an estimated 73,500 rural residents, including tribal communities in the Flathead Reservation in Montana as well as Lummi Nation and Swinomish Tribe in Washington.  

Nearly 35 percent of Americans living on tribal lands lack broadband access, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

The partnership with Native Network is part of Microsoft's Airband Initiative, the company's effort to expand affordable broadband coverage in the rural U.S. and abroad. The Airband Initiative aims to address how broadband connectivity has become a necessity for businesses in a range of industries, thanks to the rise of digital technologies like cloud and video.

In a July 2017 report, the Airband Initiative noted broadband is playing a growing role in healthcare delivery, as hospitals turn to telemedicine to address physician shortages in rural areas.

"Broadband is the electricity of the 21st century and is critical for farmers, small-business owners, healthcare practitioners, educators and students to thrive in today's digital economy," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a Nov. 8 news release announcing the partnership. "The partnership with Native Network will help close the digital divide in rural Montana and Washington."

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