Lima company partnering with Microsoft

By Mackenzi Klemann -

LIMA — Lima-based telecommunications provider Watch Communications will be working with Microsoft Corp. to extend broadband service in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to another 815,000 unserved or underserved households, including an estimated 288,000 in Ohio, the companies confirmed this week.

The agreement was reached Tuesday as part of Microsoft’s Airband Initiative to bring high-speed internet to Americans with slow or unreliable internet access.

Microsoft research suggests nearly 7 million Ohioans are currently not using the internet at broadband speeds. The partnership targets about 2.5 million of those households.

“Every person deserves the same opportunity. But too often and in too many places, these opportunities are limited by where people live and their access to reliable and affordable broadband access,” Shelley McKinley, general manager of technology and corporate responsibility at Microsoft, said in a statement about the agreement.

The project will use a variety of technologies to improve connectivity across the state.

In hard to serve areas, Greg Jarman, chief operating officer of Watch Communications, said the company will rely on TV white spaces, or unused broadcast frequencies, to improve broadband service. That may include remote areas or places with excessive foliage.

“Very few of those frequencies are being used today,” Jarman said, as many television stations have gone digital and more consumers turn to internet-based TV services.

An estimated 4 million households across the three states will be covered once the expansion is complete. Jarman hopes to have new customers online by 2020.

This is the second major broadband connectivity project Watch Communications is working on.

Last summer, the telecom provider was selected to receive $54.2 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America II fund. That project will cover 62 counties across Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.

By Mackenzi Klemann

Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.

Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.

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