Microsoft Corp. has spent the last six months seeking partners to help close the gaps in rural broadband coverage using the TV white spaces. Yesterday, it continued the effort into 2018 by announcing the formation of Connect Americans Now (CAN), a coalition of associations representing rural communities, education, rural health organizations and others.
The group says it will seek to influence the FCC and other Washington policy makers to ensure that there is sufficient unlicensed spectrum to support wireless broadband to all currently unserved areas using former TV broadcast bands (700 MHz). Microsoft set a goal of July 4, 2022, to fill in all the coverage gaps when it began its TV white spaces initiative last summer.
Since beginning the initiative, Microsoft has sought rural broadband providers to launch pilot projects establishing wireless broadband services. “Through our pilot project with Microsoft, we have witnessed the transformative effect that providing broadband via TV white spaces brings to rural families who otherwise could not obtain internet service, and hope that the FCC will embrace the potential of Connect Americans Now’s plan to close the digital divide,” said Tad Deriso, president and CEO of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp., in a press release.
Along with Microsoft and Mid-Atlantic Broadband, other CAN members include ACT: The App Association, the National Rural Education Association, the Schools, Health and Library Broadband Coalition, the Wisconsin Economic Development Association, Alaska Communications, and others.
Appearing at NRTC’s TechConnect Conference in November, Paul Garnett, VP of Microsoft’s Airband initiative said that the company’s main reason for helping rural America fill the broadband gap is to find new customers for its cloud-based services. He also spoke to the desire to “democratize access to technologies … Our goal is not just to continue serving the two billion or so people in the world who is some way are using Microsoft technologies, but we want to reach everyone else as well.” (See video.)