Oct 5, 7:39 PM EDT

Microsoft to help expand rural broadband in 6 states

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FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- Microsoft says it will team up with communities in North Dakota, Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, Wyoming and Washington state in a program broadly aimed at fostering economic growth in rural and smaller metropolitan areas.

Company president Brad Smith launched the TechSpark program Thursday in Fargo, a metropolitan area of more than 200,000 people that includes a Microsoft campus with about 1,500 employees. Smith says the six communities are different by design and not all have a Microsoft presence.

Smith says TechSpark is a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment meant to help teach computer science to students, expand rural broadband and create and fill jobs. North Dakota currently has more than 13,000 job openings.

The company has also selected Appleton, Wisconsin as one of the sites. The other communities will be announced later.

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