Seattle Times – Microsoft proposing $10B program to bring broadband internet to rural America

Microsoft proposing $10B program to bring broadband internet to rural America

Seattle Times

“Federal and state governments in recent years have tried to use tax breaks and other incentives to bridge that gap, often in partnership with regional or small-scale providers.

One of them is Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities (MBC), which was founded in 2004 by an electricity cooperative and has relied on grants to build out 1,800 miles of fiber-optic cable, the modern telecommunications backbone.

“We started with the idea that we’re losing jobs and investment because we can’t get broadband in rural Virginia,” said Tad Deriso, the nonprofit’s president.

Deriso approached Microsoft a few years ago after hearing about the company’s experiments with white-space technology.

Some students in MBC’s area struggle to complete or turn in digital school assignments on weak home internet connections, a problem commonly called the homework gap. Deriso was looking for creative ways to address that.

Microsoft chipped in, contributing to a partially grant-funded project that, for $1 million, is expected to connect 1,000 households to high-speed internet powered by TV white-space technology. FCC Commissioner Pai is expected to see the progress toward that goal firsthand on Tuesday, Deriso said.”

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Bloomberg Technology – Microsoft Pushes Fast Internet for U.S. Heartland to Bridge Broadband Gap

Microsoft Pushes Fast Internet for U.S. Heartland to Bridge Broadband Gap

Technology companies tackle access challenges in rural America after 2016 election shed light on digital divide

Bloomberg Technology

“One of the biggest ways Microsoft thinks it can make a difference is by bringing speedier online service to these areas — a program it’s calling the Rural Airband Initiative — and helping other companies do the same. The effort also lets the company tap into a priority for the Trump administration, whose promise to expand broadband service is part of a $1 trillion nationwide infrastructure plan.

Microsoft has been trying out the system in Charlotte and Halifax counties, two rural regions in southern Virginia. The company covers the costs of capital investments to start the service through local telecommunications companies, many of which are small, sometimes family-owned, and can’t afford or risk the up-front investment. Once up and running, the carrier will give Microsoft a share of the revenue. The software maker will plow those funds into connecting a new region. Microsoft itself has no plan to enter the telecom market or to make money directly from this service, Smith said. The company’s philanthropy arm, working with the National 4-H Council, will provide digital-skills training to local residents. Smith declined to say how much Microsoft will spend on the overall plan.

Already Microsoft’s efforts in Virginia are making a difference to people like Gwen Harris and her college-bound son Dylan, who just graduated from high school and concurrently earned an associate degree from a community college (through a special program at his school). The family had a dial-up internet connection until switching to a pricey satellite hookup about four years ago. But the system was still too slow and unreliable to download the research Dylan needed for papers or to upload them to professors — once a critical paper never made it to the instructor. And the multiple math videos he had to watch ate up the limited data available in their plan. About two years ago, Dylan came home from school with a flyer asking for volunteers to test Microsoft’s project. It took a little time to iron out the kinks, said Gwen Harris, but over the past year it has been reliable and fast, making a big difference in Dylan’s community college classes.

“I just think it’s wonderful that broadband internet has reached rural America and that our kids can be competitive with the rest of the world,” she said. Next Dylan will attend Old Dominion University, where he plans to study computer science.”

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Fox Business – Microsoft’s Rural Broadband Solution: TV ‘White Space’

Microsoft’s Rural Broadband Solution: TV ‘White Space’

Fox Business

“Microsoft already has doled out $250,000 to Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp., said Tad Deriso, chief executive of the southern Virginia telecom. With another $500,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and $250,000 of its own money, Mid-Atlantic Broadband plans to bring white-space service to 1,000 customers by year-end.

The service, which residents acquire through local schools, provides free internet access to a limited number of education-related sites at speeds of about 3 to 4 MB a second. Customers can access the entire web at the same speed for $10 a month, or pay $40 a month for service that hits 8 to 10 MB a second, though that falls below the FCC’s definition of “fast.”

About 90% of homes have opted for the free service, Mr. Deriso said.

The money from Microsoft and others is crucial because the cost of deploying the technology is about $1,000 a home, Mr. Deriso said. “Eventually, we’d like to see it be $100,” he said.”

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New York Times – To Close Digital Divide, Microsoft to Harness Unused Television Channels

To Close Digital Divide, Microsoft to Harness Unused Television Channels

New York Times

“Microsoft said its goal was not to become a telecom provider. It will work with local internet service providers like Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities in Virginia and Axiom Technologies in Maine by investing in some of the capital costs and then sharing in revenue. It has also opened its patents on the technology and teamed with chip makers to make devices that work with white spaces cheaper.”

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