Microsoft has announced a plan to speed up the process of bringing high-speed internet to rural areas of America, connecting some of the hardest-to-reach regions.
Microsoft President Brad Smith says the Rural Airband Initiative aims to use "white spaces," a wireless technology that harnesses the space between television channels, to provide service for two million consumers over the next five years.
Microsoft will reportedly focus its efforts on 12 states and provide money to local telecommunications companies to offer the service to consumers in their area. The software giant made clear that it has no intention of becoming an internet service provider (ISP), it is only trying to address a public policy need, and will do so through local partnerships.
Microsoft has launched a pilot project in a rural area of Virginia and produced the video below to explain the results.
'Very ambitious goal'
Technology publisher ReCode suggests Microsoft has set a very ambitious goal. 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.
"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. "At the moment, Microsoft has not announced any specific investments in that technology."
In a blog posting, Smith says the time is right to set "a clear and ambitious but achievable goal," bringing wide areas of rural America into the broadband world by 2022.
Smith calls it a strategic approach combining private sector capital investments with public sector support.