Microsoft has been focusing for many years on delivering high-speed broadband to developing countries. It’s set up ‘White Spaces’ projects in India, the Philippines, Tanzania, and more. The plans utilize unused TV frequencies to deliver internet to developing regions across the world.
Now the company is hoping to expand that domestically. A test network was established by the research group in 2009, and a pilot project in North Carolina won regulatory approval at a later date. Microsoft is seeking further approval for 12 U.S. states in the next year.
It’s a decision that was influenced, in part, by the current political climate. Speaking of last year’s elections, chief legal officer Brad Smith stated:
“It’s fair to say the election raised our level of consciousness, as it did for a great many people in the country. It certainly caused us to reflect on the fact that we had been pursuing these projects to a greater degree in rural Africa than rural America. We’d been involved in Asia and other continents more so than in our own country.”
Waiting for FCC Approval
Microsoft believes its connection will be available at 80% of the cost of fiber, and 50% less than current wireless. It can also travel up to four times farther than WiFi, and can better pass through walls and hills.
A study found that cost will be between $10 and $15 billion. Smith has called for a commitment from corporations and federal and state grants over five years to help with the project. The Redmond giant will, however, provide the base technology and invest on its expansion, taking a cut from revenue to fund the project.
Currently, however, the company is still waiting for approval from the FCC. The proposal requires the use of three airwave channels previously used for TV. It’s not the only project pushing for the use of that white space, however, and it’s already been met with opposition.
The National Association of Broadcasters has slammed Microsoft in a previous blog post. The trade group has members from CBS, Comcast, ABC, 21st Century Fox and more. It called the plan “yet another heist movie based on a con game that’s too clever by half.”
Whatever the case, Smith is planning to officially announce the project at the Willard Hotel in Washington. It’s the place AT&T demonstrated its ability to place calls across the world.
He expects Microsoft’s project to have a similar effect, un-hindering education, business, and healthcare. It’s less about streaming HD movies, he says, and more about “the necessities of life”.