Microsoft to unveil plan to bring Internet to rural areas

By Ed Adamczyk  |  July 11, 2017 at 10:50 AM
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July 11 (UPI) -- Microsoft Corp. will attempt a project to bring broadband to 2 million people in hard-to-reach rural areas, it said.

The software company will unveil the Rural Airband Initiative on Tuesday in Washington's Willard Hotel, where Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the coast-to-coast capability of his telephone. Microsoft will offer unspecified funding to local telecom providers in 12 states to improve Internet access through use of "white spaces," airwaves between television stations that are not owned by broadcasters.

The plan is to connect 2 million rural Americans who have limited or no access to high-speed Internet connections within five years. Microsoft said that 23 million Americans lack high-speed Internet access.

The technology is known as "Super Wi-Fi." It employs low-power television channels to cover greater distances than wireless hot spots, and its frequencies can penetrate concrete walls and other obstacles.

Whether it will work is another matter. Internet access devices compatible with current technology cost $1,000 each, although Microsoft President Brad Smith said the cost of equipment could be brought down to $200 each by 2018. Television broadcasters argue that using the space between channels could interfere with broadcasts on those channels. The National Association of Broadcasters filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission earlier this, week opposing Microsoft's request to retain one nationwide channel to be reserved for white-space use.

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