Microsoft to Propose Plan to Bridge Digital Divide in Rural US

Alicia Guzman
July 12, 2017

It plans to launch at least 12 projects across 12 states within the next 12 months, and has partnerships with telecom companies including CenturyLink Inc in Washington state, and hopes for more partners, Smith said.

"Nor are "white spaces" some panacea for the country's broadband ills: Even Microsoft acknowledges in its announcement that other technologies, like internet delivered by satellite, are necessary to improve connectivity in the country's most remote regions", ReCode points out. "They have to have longer-term vision". "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 group said the buffer zones, though now unused, are important for preventing adjacent channels from interfering with each other.

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Microsoft will announce the new project in a speech at Washington D.C., according to the Seattle Times, which broke the news. Microsoft bets costs will come down, but that is not guaranteed. Other companies, including Google, have made similar requests. Brake said some of those stations "might get bumped off in a few markets" if those airwaves are reserved for broadband internet service. The company will work with local companies including the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities in Virginia and Axiom Technologies in ME, sharing investment costs and revenue. The project is providing free internet for local students to access educational websites, and charging customers who want expanded service. Through research conducted with Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft says it has determined TV white spaces to be the best approach for communities with a population density between 2 and 200 people per square mile.

"We said, 'Wow, the problems they're trying to solve in rural parts of Africa are the same we have in rural Virginia, on the technology side, '" Deriso said. Specifically, it will be important for the FCC to ensure that three channels below 700 MHz are available for wireless use on an unlicensed basis in every market in the country, with additional TV white spaces available in smaller markets and rural areas.

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IL is not on that list, which includes Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, but if the program is successful it is expected to expand.

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