GeekWire: Microsoft plans to bring broadband Internet to 2M rural Americans

Sherry Scott a schoolteacher in southern Virginia tests a new broadcast internet system as part of a pilot program by Microsoft and Mid Atlantic Broadband Communities to extend access to more rural students

"Microsoft's white space device development has been a well-documented, unmitigated failure".

According to the The New York Times, Microsoft on Tuesday will announce plans to start a white spaces service in 12 states including New York, Texas, Washington, Virginia, Michigan, Maine, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Reaching all 23 million underserved rural Americans would cost as much as $12 billion, Microsoft said. And while a range of solutions will be required to connect these people, the company said that it made a decision to use TV spectrum instead of fiber optic cables or fixed wireless technology, such as 4G, because it is significantly cheaper. 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.

Microsoft is aiming to connect 2 million people with its own investments, and eventually helping partners serve more than 20 million people with rural broadband connections.

Unused TV white spaces operating in the 600 MHz frequency range will be repurposed for Microsoft's projects, and these frequencies have enough bandwidth to help deliver internet to thousands of homes.

The plans come with hurdles, including the cost of technology-compatible devices, and opposition from the National Association of Broadcasters.

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That's less of a problem in most rural areas, said Doug Brake, a telecommunications policy analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank that includes Microsoft among its donors.

"In rural areas, there aren't that many television broadcasters so there's a lot of unused spectrum", Brake said.

The Microsoft executive noted that the event will take place at the Willard Hotel, where Alexander Graham Bell held a demonstration of a long-distance phone call 101 years ago.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is planning to visit his southern Virginia office on Tuesday to talk about the project, Deriso said. "You need a type of technology that can go longer distances and has better penetration".

IL is not on that list, which includes Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, but if the program is successful it is expected to expand.

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