Microsoft wants to improve rural broadband access by accessing unused TV white spaces spectrum, and eliminate the gap across the US over the next five years. Currently, in many rural parts of America you have to rely on poor cable connections, radio-powered modems, or even satellite technology to get access to the internet. The speeds are usually not adequate enough to even stream Netflix episodes, let alone browse the web properly.
Unused TV white spaces operating in the 600 MHz frequency range will be repurposed for Microsoft’s projects, and these frequencies have enough bandwidth to help deliver internet to thousands of homes. Microsoft is using it’s using previous experience deploying white spaces projects in 17 different countries to execute its ambitious plans. “At Microsoft, we’re prepared to invest our own resources to help serve as a catalyst for broader market adoption of this new model,” says Brad Smith, Microsoft’s chief legal officer. Microsoft is creating a Rural Airband Initiative that will invest in partnerships with telecommunications companies to create 12 projects in 12 states over the next 12 months.
At Monday’s work session, Supervisor Robert Duer presented the Microsoft project to the Board of Supervisors. Duer noted that Northampton and Accomack are rated among the worst in the state, with internet availability of 0-32%. Duer stated that the lack of high speed internet may be another reason why businesses and others were not moving or investing in the Eastern Shore.
Chairman Spencer Murray responded that both counties rely on the ESVB authority to address this issue and get high speed internet service into underserved areas.
Murray suggested that the Authority could be more proactive, including contacting Microsoft to lobby for their interest on the Eastern Shore, and that unless the county starts seeing results, the Board of Supervisors may have to step in to ensure that citizens finally get adequate internet service.