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Rural America, Microsoft plans to boost your Internet access

A previous attempt at providing broadband service through a public-private partnership fell apart in 2013.
Flickr Photo/Steve Rhode (CC BY-NC-ND)
Microsoft aims to connect two million rural Americans to broadband Internet by 2022.

Washington is one of the states that could benefit from Microsoft's new plan to boost broadband Internet access to rural communities.

Microsoft would do this by tapping into what’s called TV White Spaces technology. That involves unused TV airwaves to carry Internet transmissions to people in rural areas.

Microsoft president Brad Smith said the company hopes to reach a lot of people with it.

“We're investing our own resource in addressing this challenge,” Smith said. “The Microsoft Rural Airband Initiative will include work directly with telecommunications companies to bring broadband to two million people within five years.”

He said it’s important to get web access to these areas.

“This isn’t just about letting people watch YouTube videos,” Smith said. “It’s about improving agriculture and education and everything in between.”

The web provider database Broadband Now said Washington state is the 12th most connected in the country.

Washington’s Department of Education Dennis Small is the educational technology director for OSPI. He said most Washington school districts are fortunate to be online, but there's more that could be done to keep students connected. Especially those who don’t have that same access to technology at home.

“It happens in urban areas as well, but particularly in rural and remote areas, that lack of access can be a real detriment to students being able to have the same access to resources,” Small said.

Microsoft is reaching out to state and federal organizations to invest in the White Space technology. With it, the company aims to connect two million rural Americans by 2022.