IM company partners in Microsoft’s rural broadband initiative

OCONTO FALLS, Wis. — Packerland Broadband of Iron Mountain has formed a partnership with Microsoft to further a rural broadband initiative.

The goal is to eliminate the rural broadband gap within the next five years. Microsoft believes the U.S. can bring broadband coverage to rural areas within this time frame, based on a strategic approach that combines private sector capital investments in new technologies and affordable public sector support.

Packerland Broadband’s mission aligns with Microsoft’s Airband Initiative to change the rural landscape by bringing infrastructure and to provide rural broadband connectivity at an affordable rate.

“The internet is not a luxury anymore; it is an essential tool in our everyday lives,” said Jessica Kuhn, sales and marketing director for Packerland.

At a press conference in Oconto Falls, Wis., Michelle Schuler from Microsoft emphasized the need to develop relationships with non-profits, educational institutions, and businesses such as Packerland Broadband.

One technology that is going to be used to assist in closing the rural broadband gap is called TV White Space, which refers to the unused portion of the wireless spectrum that formerly carried analog TV channels.

Beyond the Microsoft Packerland partnership, the state of Wisconsin is very supportive and has recognized the need to make sure Wisconsin is fully connected, said state Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst.

“We are a rural broadband provider. It is what we do,” said Cory Heigl, vice president of Packerland Broadband. “We want to enhance the lives of rural Americans by providing an internet connection that is affordable, while educating and equipping those that may need help learning how to use various kinds of technology. We believe that everyone, regardless of where they live, deserves a high-quality connection.”

Nearly 20 million rural Americans still lack access to reliable and affordable broadband Internet. This lack of access creates a disadvantage when it comes to applying for jobs, seeking education, getting the right health care, and communicating with others across the country and around the world. Microsoft and Packerland Broadband look forward to removing the obstacle of limited connectivity together.

Founded in 2007, Packerland delivers modern telecommunications services in 60 rural communities throughout Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula.