Microsoft is announcing plans today to expand broadband Internet services across rural areas of the U.S. through use of unused wireless spectrum known as “white space.”
However, North Carolina isn’t among the first states set to receive the service.
The New York Times, Bloomberg and Recode all reported the news overnight.
Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin are the initial sites, according to the media reports.
A Microsoft executive told Bloomberg that the results of the 2016 election helped highlight how rural areas in the U.S. have lagged in Internet connectivity even as large tech companies have focused on areas outside the U.S. to expand networks.
“It’s fair to say the election raised our level of consciousness, as it did for a great many people in the country,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said. “It certainly caused us to reflect on the fact that we had been pursuing these projects to a greater degree in rural Africa than rural America. We’d been involved in Asia and other continents more so than in our own country.”
The “Rural Airband Initiative” aims to provide high-speed access to 2 million Americans over the next five years.
However, Microsoft doesn’t intent to become a communications provider.
“[I]t’s only providing capital to local firms — and does not seek to profit from the endeavor,” executives told Recode.
“Through revenue-sharing agreements, Microsoft instead plans to invest any money it raises in additional projects in other states where internet access is lacking.”
Smith says the strategy would use TV white spaces, which are unlicensed and unused airwaves. He says the powerful bandwidth will allow wireless signals to travel over hills and through buildings and trees.
The company plans to partner with telecommunications companies that serve rural counties in 12 states. It’s also asking for regulatory support from the Federal Communications Commission.
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