Microsoft wants to close the rural broadband gap with TV white spaces

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White space technology has been bandied about as a possible way to provide internet access to the parts of rural America where it's too expensive for rural telecom providers to lay out infrastructure for DSL or cable lines.

"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. Leveraging the unused TV broadcast frequencies, Microsoft is hoping to kickstart an initiative that it hopes will eventually bring broadband internet to around 23 million people that lack access in rural America, effectively closing what it calls "the rural broadband gap". He says the powerful bandwidth will allow wireless signals to travel over hills and through buildings and trees. This week, the National Association of Broadcasters filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission arguing against Microsoft's request for one nationwide channel to be set aside for white-spaces use.

"Our goal is not to enter the telecommunications business ourselves or even to profit directly from these projects", explains Smith. 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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Microsoft proposes to provide the technology and the cash and will recoup its investment by collecting a share of future service revenue. "There is no reason people in rural areas need to spend more". There, the tech company partnered with Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. However, broadcaster companies aren't thrilled with the idea, as they are required to pay to obtain that spectrum from the US government.

Smith will give a speech on Tuesday in which he plans to unveil a white paper outlining steps for the private and public sectors to take to connect the hard-to-reach areas of the country.

The initial target states are: Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Lastly, Microsoft plans to invest in digital skills training for people in rural communities as well.