US technology giant Microsoft has unveiled an ambitious plan to improve broadband services in rural America, using so-called ‘TV White Spaces’ spectrum, which it defines as unused frequencies in the UHF television bands. Via a series of twelve pilot projects, covering Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Maine, Arizona, Kansas, Texas, Georgia and Virginia, Microsoft hopes to lay the groundwork for a solution it hopes will ‘eliminate’ the digital divide within five years. In order to implement its plans, Microsoft hopes to invest in a number of partnerships with telecoms companies via its Microsoft Rural Airband Initiative. Ultimately, the technology firm seeks to bring broadband connectivity to two million under-served people by 2022.
In an official blog post, chief legal officer Brad Smith commented: ‘Our goal is not to enter the telecommunications business ourselves, or even to profit directly from these projects. 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 … As a country, we should not settle for an outcome that leaves behind more than 23 million of our rural neighbours.’