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Microsoft plans to bring broadband Internet to 2M rural Americans — GeekWire

12 July 2017, 12:28 | Virginia Benson

Microsoft Has a Plan to Bring Broadband to 2 Million in Rural America

To Close Digital Divide, Microsoft to Harness Unused Television Channels

Microsoft rural Airband aspiration is a pursuit to partner with local providers to advance wireless internet. "Microsoft's white space device development has been a well-documented, unmitigated failure".

Microsoft hopes to run the white-space technology project, called the Rural Airband Initiative, in 12 states by 2018.

The company notes that 5 million people now live without access to the Internet. And earlier this year during a Senate committee hearing, it said that unlicensed spectrum is vital in low-, mid- and high bands to meet ever-increasing demand for technologies that use licensed spectrum.

Microsoft's announcement comes at a time when other technology companies are developing ways to deliver Internet connectivity to tens of millions of people living in rural areas in the US and other underserved markets.

The Redmond, Washington, technology company proposed using spectrum typically reserved for TV stations to broadcast high-speed internet to underserved USA locations. It notes that "white spaces" are not available everywhere and would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set aside more spectrum for that use.

Microsoft has launched a pilot project in a rural area of Virginia and produced the video below to explain the results. "We think increasing rural broadband is a good idea but not the way Microsoft is proposing it", said Dennis Wharton, the executive vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters.

The technology isn't new - Microsoft and others have been trying to tackle the problem since at least 2008.

"In rural areas, there aren't that many television broadcasters so there's a lot of unused spectrum", Brake said.

To make it work, Microsoft says the FCC will have to guarantee that these buffer zones remain available nationwide - and make even more such zones available in rural areas.

Microsoft said that the total cost of eliminating the rural broadband gap would fall between $8 and $12 billion.

"You need a type of technology that can go longer distances and has better penetration", he said.

A spokesman for Microsoft told Recode that the initial 12 states in the initiative would be Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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