Rural Broadband Access Hangs on FCC Action


Earlier this month, Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Office Brad Smith called for a new rural broadband strategy that sets the goal of closing the rural broadband gap entirely in the next five years — by July 4, 2022. This would bring affordable high-speed internet coverage to more than 23.4 million rural Americans who lack reliable, affordable access today.

To achieve this goal, policy action is needed. Specifically, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to ensure that three TV white spaces channels are available for wireless broadband in every U.S. market.

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Credit: Wall Street Journal

Proven technology using TV white spaces spectrum can enable wireless broadband connectivity to reach nearly 10 miles, compared to Wi-Fi’s reach of approximately 100-325 yards. This emerging technology provides a cost-effective way to bring high-speed internet — and the benefits of connectivity and cloud computing — to millions of Americans who currently lack access.

You can read more about this announcement in Brad Smith’s Microsoft on the Issues blog, “A rural broadband strategy: connecting rural America to new opportunities.”

Microsoft Rural Airband Initiative

While FCC action is needed to spur widespread deployment of TV white spaces broadband, Microsoft is independently moving forward with its own Rural Airband Initiative (RAI). Via partnerships with telecommunications companies, the RAI aims to bring broadband connectivity to two million people in rural America by 2022.

The RAI will demonstrate the effectiveness of using long-distance wireless technology to deliver high-speed internet. As part of the RAI, Microsoft will also support digital skills training in newly connected communities. The company will also share its expertise and intellectual property, including patents, with other companies to spur greater development of broadband connectivity through TV white spaces spectrum in rural areas.