Microsoft president outlines vision for rural broadband expansion

Microsoft president outlines vision for rural broadband expansion
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Microsoft President Brad Smith laid out his vision on Tuesday for a new effort to bring broadband internet access to rural communities.

In a blog post, Smith said that the U.S. should aim to eliminate the urban-rural internet access gap by July 4, 2022. He emphasized that the best way to approach the issue is by taking advantage of “TV white spaces” — television broadcast waves that are unused, which “enables wireless signals to travel over hills and through buildings and trees,” Smith writes.

“It’s why people could watch television programs in rural communities long before the advent of satellite television,” he wrote. “Microsoft itself has considerable experience with this spectrum, having deployed 20 TV white spaces projects in 17 countries that have served 185,000 users.”

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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 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.

He called for the federal and local governments to free up spectrum for the effort, invest matching funds in private sector projects and provide updated data on rural broadband coverage.

Microsoft also plans to step up its investment into broadband expansion projects.

“Our goal is not to enter the telecommunications business ourselves or even to profit directly from these projects,” he wrote.

“We will invest in the upfront capital projects needed to expand broadband coverage, seek a revenue share from operators to recoup our investment, and then use these revenue proceeds to invest in additional projects to expand coverage further. We’re confident that this approach is good for the country and even for our business.”