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


And it's looking to unlicensed TV white space (TVWS) spectrum to facilitate the offering.

Microsoft's plan, however, may not be the best way to go about expanding Internet access to others, some experts say.

Microsoft plans to work with regional telecom companies to invest in at least a dozen projects in 12 states over the next year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Closing the so-called "digital divide" between rural users and those in more highly populated areas has become a top priority for both federal authorities and some service providers.

"It's fair to say the election raised our level of consciousness, as it did for a great many people in the country", Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said.

"Our goal is not to enter the telecommunications business ourselves or even to profit directly from these projects", explains Smith. It will use the proceeds to invest in additional projects. "To the contrary, we can and should bring the benefits of broadband coverage to every corner of the nation".

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Microsoft also released a video where they explain their mission for the Rural Airband Initiative in Virginia. The South Boston, Virginia-based telecommunications provider will contribute another $250,000 and use a $500,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.

Microsoft estimates that 5 million households with school-age children don't have access to the Internet in rural America.

The broadcast spectrum that allowed people in isolated rural areas to watch television long before cable and satellite services could also provide underserved parts of the USA with access to broadband Internet service, according to Microsoft. Microsoft is using it's using previous experience deploying white spaces projects in 17 different countries to executive its ambitious plans. Its larger vision: to provide 2 million people in the US with broadband by 2022.

The company will remain lobbying in Washington, D.C., to obtain the release of more white spaces.

Smith calls it a strategic approach combining private sector capital investments with public sector support.

The company's philanthropic arm will also put money toward tech training for people living in rural communities; Microsoft has already inked a partnership with the National 4-H Council to do so.

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