A Quad-Cities company is partnering with Microsoft to improve rural broadband access to about 126,000 people in Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota.
Illinois-based Network Business Systems will work to expand access to Iowa residents in Scott, Muscatine and Clinton counties, The Des Moines Register reported . The partnership is through Microsoft's Airband initiative, which aims to expand broadband service to 2 million people living in rural areas of the U.S. by 2022.
However, David Peters, an associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University, said the three selected Iowa counties aren't rural. Microsoft officials said urban counties have rural residents who struggle to find internet service.
"Most counties have a mix of people who live in urban areas and rural areas," said Shelly McKinley, Microsoft's head of technology and corporate responsibility.
More than 60 percent of rural residents in Muscatine County didn't have access to high-speed internet in 2016, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Less than 30 percent of Clinton County residents didn't have access, while more than 20 percent didn't have access in Scott County.
Microsoft will give Network Business Systems technical support and the ability to use its recognizable name with customers and regulators, said Kari Hofmann, general manager at Network Business Systems.
"Let's face it, everybody knows who Microsoft is," Hoffman said. "If they go to bat for us with the FCC or even a government agency in our own state, they'll probably listen to them before they will us."
This story has been corrected to show that the Illinois company is called Network Business Systems, not Network Business Solutions.