Microsoft Aims to Make True High-Speed Internet Accessible in Rural America

TV white spaces are reported to have enough bandwidth to allow the delivery of high-speed Internet access to thousands of households.

While broadband Internet access is available to the vast majority of Americans, there is still a noticeable gap between urban and rural areas. The situation may have improved lately, giving rural residents several options besides dial-up. However, they’re not exactly optimal. Wireless modems and satellite Internet access often don’t provide the speeds necessary to allow comfortable use of any online applications requiring higher bandwidth, such as watching shows on Netflix. Another problem faced by rural residents is that most of the broadband Internet options they can select from, like wireless and satellite, come with limited monthly data transfer caps. They’re also a lot more expensive compared to what’s available in more densely populated areas.

These are all things that tech giant Microsoft is hoping to change in the near future. One of the company’s projects involves using the 600 MHz frequency range, often called “TV white spaces,” to bridge the broadband Internet gap between urban and rural parts of the nation. TV white spaces are reported to have enough bandwidth to allow the delivery of high-speed Internet access to thousands of households.

Their plants may seem ambitious, but they’re not unrealistic from a technical point of view. Microsoft already has experience deploying similar projects in 17 countries. In the US, their project is called the Rural Airband Initiative. The company will invest some of its own funds in partnership with various telecommunications service providers to bring a new way of getting online in 12 states during the next year.

In a statement about their white spaces pilot projects, Microsoft has clarified that they have no intention of entering the telecommunications industry or even profiting directly from their endeavors. Instead, they hope to make investments used to build the needed infrastructure, enter into revenue sharing agreements with local operators to recoup their initial investments, then proceed to expand the reach of the Rural Airband Initiative even further.

Once their projects have been fully deployed, Microsoft hopes to bring true broadband Internet services to nearly 23 million additional individuals in the nation. They believe that every tech company can benefit from an increased number of individuals having faster and higher quality Internet connections at home. The improved connectivity will lead to these Internet users spending more time online and using services that they previously might have avoided due to low connection speeds, such as media streaming, multiplayer online games and video chat.