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Microsoft plans free WiFi around Boydton

SoVaNow.com / November 22, 2017
During a brief meeting with the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors in early November, Tad Deriso, CEO of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Corporation (MBC) announced that Microsoft is planning to bring free Wi-fi to Boydton — enabling access to the web for anyone passing by with a wireless device.

When the project is complete, Deriso said Boydton would be one of only a handful of towns across America where the entire downtown is a Wi-fi hotspot.

Deriso, who appeared before supervisors seeking tax exempt status for the 501(C)(4) non-profit he runs, said it was Microsoft not MBC that would be bringing Wi-fi to downtown Boydton. At the same time, Microsoft will be using fiber installed by MBC for this project.

The impetus behind the Boydton Wi-fi project, explained Deriso, began when Microsoft president Brad Smith came to Boydton, and despite working for one of the largest technology corporations in the world, he was having difficulty gaining service for his devices.

In a blog post written in July of this year, Smith noted that “People who live in these rural communities increasingly are unable to take advantage of the economic and educational opportunities enjoyed by their urban neighbors.” He experienced it first-hand while in Boydton, and challenged the staff at Microsoft’s facility to alleviate the problem for at least one area, the nearby town of Boydton.

Deriso said he did not know the exact time frame for Microsoft to begin this work, but believed it would happen in the next year. He added, he believes there will be no purchase or subscription required, and no password needed to access the network, but there may be a time limit on each session.

The Boydton Wi-fi project is in addition Microsoft’s rural airband initiative it is pursuing in conjunction with MBC. The goal there is to bring broadband connectivity to people in rural Virginia starting in areas in and around Halifax and Charlotte counties. This is one of 12 such projects Microsoft has up and running in twelve states.

Smith says the goal is “not to enter the telecommunications business ourselves or even to profit directly from these projects. We will invest in the upfront capital projects needed to expand broadband coverage, seek a revenue share from operators to recoup our investment, and then use these revenue proceeds to invest in additional projects to expand coverage further. We’re confident that this approach is good for the country and even for our business. After all, if 23 million additional customers can access the internet at broadband speeds, every tech company in America will benefit.”

Calls to Microsoft for a fuller explanation of this project and its timeline were not returned.

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