For Release 9 a.m. EDT
May 23, 2017
Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities and Microsoft launch new Homework Network to bring thousands of students online in rural Virginia
The United States’ largest TV white space project will deliver critical, at-home Wi-Fi access and educational content to K–12 students in Charlotte and Halifax counties.
SOUTH BOSTON, Va. — May 23, 2017 — The Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp. and Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced the launch of an innovative Homework Network to deliver broadband internet access at home to thousands of students in Southern Virginia, at no cost to their families. In Charlotte and Halifax counties, about 50 percent of students currently lack broadband access at home. Yet today, nearly seven in 10 teachers across the United States assign homework and research requiring broadband access.
The “homework gap” is an urgent local and national problem. An estimated 5 million households with school-age children in the U.S. are at a significant disadvantage due to limited or nonexistent broadband connectivity. These students are often unable to access the tools they need to succeed in school and to develop the skills they need to enter today’s workforce. This creates an uneven playing field for future educational and economic prospects.
In response, Microsoft and MBC are activating the largest Homework Network in the U.S. — starting in Charlotte and Halifax counties — with support from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. The network has been successfully piloted in 100 households across both counties, and will reach more than 3,000 students in 1,000 homes by the end of 2017. Students will have free access to their schools’ online networks where assignments and education resources are posted, extending their learning time beyond the school day.
MBC President and CEO Tad Deriso; Tobacco Commission Vice-Chairman Senator Frank Ruff, R-Va.; and Microsoft’s Senior Director of Affordable Access Initiatives Paul Garnett, among others, announced the news at an event Tuesday in South Boston, Virginia.
“Closing the homework gap is critical for improving the odds of student success,” said MBC’s Deriso. “We are delighted to partner with Microsoft and others on such a groundbreaking initiative that, at the end of the day, connects young people to required educational resources and strengthens our local communities. Ultimately we believe such initiatives enhance competitiveness for economic development in Southern Virginia.”
The Homework Network in Virginia is made possible by an innovative broadband technology, which Microsoft helped pioneer, that makes use of unused low-band spectrum often referred to as TV white space. Leveraging this technology, the network wirelessly extends existing broadband from local schools to students’ homes. Using TV white space equipment from U.S.-based Adaptrum, internet access is delivered via base stations installed on towers at or near fiber-connected schools and client radios installed at students’ homes. TV white space technology is ideal for delivering broadband service to areas such as rural Southern Virginia, as it can cover large geographical ranges even in the hilly terrain and dense tree cover of the region. The network is being installed by local internet service provider B2X Online.
Microsoft has driven the development and adoption of TV white space technology as part of its Affordable Access Initiative. The initiative aims to support, grow and scale innovative businesses that are developing technologies that have the potential to help billions of people around the world gain reliable connectivity.
“Too many students in the U.S. are falling behind their peers because they lack reliable high-speed internet access at home,” said Microsoft’s Garnett. “Falling behind today means entering the job market at a disadvantage tomorrow. This innovative public-private partnership can help close that gap, and is one step toward what we hope is an initiative replicated in other parts of the county. Given the benefits, it is important that the Federal Communications Commission ensure there is sufficient low-band spectrum available in every U.S. market.”
“Rural Southern Virginia is now home to a highly innovative solution, which can serve as a model for other parts of the state and the U.S. and even around the world, to help young people succeed in school,” said Senator Ruff. “We are proud to help support and fund such an important project starting here in Charlotte and Halifax counties.”
About Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities
Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) is committed to providing economic development leadership to Southern Virginia. MBC promotes economic development in Southern Virginia through the operation of a successful advanced open access fiber optic network, providing wholesale telecommunications transport services, colocation and tower leasing. MBC offers a state-of-the-art fiber optic network and supports the recruitment of major investments, including data centers, call center/operations centers, advanced manufacturing, research and development, and bio-tech industries.
About the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission
The Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission is a 28-member body created by the 1999 General Assembly. Its mission is the promotion of economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities, using proceeds of the national tobacco settlement. To date, the Commission has awarded 2,036 grants totaling more than $1.1 billion across the tobacco region of the Commonwealth, and has provided $309 million in indemnification payments to tobacco growers and quota holders.
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
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