At a recent event in Washington, D.C., Microsoft President Brad Smith discussed closing the US rural broadband gap to the more than 19 million people who do not have access to broadband. Smith said this is a problem only the country can solve, and announced that Microsoft will increase its commitment in solving the problem.
The Microsoft Airband Initiative, which launched in July 2017, started with a goal to make broadband available to 2 million Americans who lacked access. After its first year of success, Smith revealed that Microsoft is raising its goal to reach 3 million Americans in rural communities by July 4, 2022, and has added additional states, bringing the total to 25 states served by late 2019.
“Without a proper broadband connection, these communities can’t start or run a modern business, access telemedicine, take an online class, digitally transform their farm, or research a school project online,” Smith said. “You see this dilemma play out in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data, which shows the highest unemployment rates are frequently located in the counties with the lowest availability of broadband. As a nation, we can’t afford to turn our backs on these communities as we head into the future. Given our early progress, today we are raising our goal and increasing our commitment. Microsoft will pursue work to extend broadband access to 3 million Americans in rural areas by July 2022.”
The event also featured a discussion with representatives from two internet service providers, Packerland Broadband and Declaration Networks Group, who are partnering with Microsoft.
The Microsoft Airband Initiative partners, along with internet service providers, are using a collaboration of technologies to help bridge the rural broadband gap including TV white spaces, an economical wireless solution. Microsoft is also working with hardware manufacturers to decrease the price of TV white spaces devices to lower the overall cost for rural broadband expansion.