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Updated: October 23, 2019

Tilson, Microsoft to expand rural broadband access

Tilson CEO Josh Broder at company headquarters in Portland. File Photo / Tim Greenway Joshua Broder, CEO of Tilson, says the company's agreement with Microsoft to expand rural broadband access will benefit Maine and other states.

Tilson, the fast-growing Portland-based network deployment and IT professional services firm, will team up with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) to expand rural broadband internet access nationwide.

In a news release Tuesday, the companies said the initiative aims to extend access to 3 million unserved and underserved rural Americans by July 2022, helping close the rural broadband gap.

Under the agreement, Tilson and an affiliate called SQF LLC will perform and deliver network systems integration, pole ownership and consulting services for internet service providers nationwide that are part of Microsoft's Airband Initiative, which seeks to make use of low-cost wireless technologies to get more people in the world online. 

"Working with Microsoft and our ISP partners demonstrates our continued commitment to provide innovative solutions and make broadband more accessible and affordable for residents and businesses in our rural communities, said Tilson CEO Josh Broder, honored as a Mainebiz Business Leader of the Year in 2018.

Paul Garnett, senior director of the Microsoft Airband Initiative said, "Tilson has the proven track record and national footprint to help support large scale fixed wireless provider deployments as well as the successful expansion of an emerging TV white space ecosystem. Strategic partnerships with systems integrators such as Tilson will provide invaluable project support in the global effort to connect rural communities."

Building Maine's tech-solving 'brand' 

In response to a query from Mainebiz, Tilson said the effort with Microsoft will help Maine in two ways.

First, Tilson employees in the Pine Tree State are working on the project with impacts all over the country.

"We are putting more people to work solving the thorny problems of rural broadband and building our state's brand as a place you turn to solve complex technical problems," Broder said. "We have already launched engineering work in Maine for several other states, and already have people in the field in those states deploying networks."

Second, Tilson is helping another Microsoft partner, RTO Wireless, to deploy in Maine, by providing consulting, engineering, construction and pole ownership for new broadband technologies.

"For example," Broder said, "we recently deployed a trial TV whites space wireless site for them in Standish."

Long-term mission

Microsoft estimates that nearly 50% of the global population is not online.

Broder told Mainebiz said the target of bringing rural broadband to 3 million people is just an intermediate one for Tilson's initiative with Microsoft, and that there is no planned end date for that work.

"We are not done," he said, "until everyone in the world is well-served, and since data demand and expectations keep rising, we know we have to go back to places that were once considered well-served and bring the next generation of broadband technology."

Tilson employs more than 550 people in 23 locations nationwide and continues to staff up in several areas, listing dozens of open positions on its website.

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