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

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Microsoft is announcing plans today to expand broadband Internet services across rural areas of the US through use of unused wireless spectrum known as "white space".

"At Microsoft, we're prepared to invest our own resources to help serve as a catalyst for broader market adoption of this new model", said Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief legal officer, according to The Verge. Microsoft will invest in the upfront capital projects needed to expand broadband coverage, seek a revenue share from operators to recoup their investment, and then use these revenue proceeds to invest in additional projects to expand coverage further.

Smith says the strategy would use TV white spaces, which are unlicensed and unused airwaves.

"White spaces has tremendous opportunity to help with broadband coverage in rural areas, but it's hard to justify the cost to device makers who don't see economies of scale in rural areas", said Doug Brake, a senior analyst at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a research organization that is sponsored by tech companies including Microsoft.

To make use of the white space, a base station that transmits signals of the right frequency is required, along with matching antennas on homes, which are hooked up to modems instead of TVs.

"We're confident that this approach is good for the country and even for our business", said Smith. Microsoft estimates that over 23 million Americans in the countryside lack high-speed internet access.

It's also calling for regulatory cooperation from the Federal Communications Commission and broader support from the public sector to expand rural broadband to the more than 20 million people who don't have it. There, the tech company partnered with Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. Getting more people connected in rural areas has been a priority of President Donald Trump's administration.

Microsoft has a plan to get everyone in the USA fixed wireless broadband access.

The company plans to have pilot programs up and running within the next year in Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona, Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, Georgia, New York and Maine. Lastly, Microsoft plans to invest in digital skills training for people in rural communities as well.