Microsoft, Others Combine to Push Rural Broadband Solutions

Microsoft, which has been pushing the use of TV white spaces to close the rural broadband divide, has joined with C Spire, Airspan Networks, Nokia and Siklu to form a coalition of the willing to come up with a "disruptive blueprint to close the adoption gap."

The consortium will use Mississippi and Alabama as testbeds for driving affordable internet access and drive adoption.

The consortium is launching under something of a cone of silence. C Spire said that the rural broadband effort will launch with a workshop in New Orleans Jan. 29-31 that will be closed to press. Microsoft and the other members will be in attendance, however, according to C Spire.

Related: Microsoft Ups Airband Deployment Target

The consortium has not unveiled any of the potential technologies being tested—more details are supposed to be shared at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Feb. 25-28—but Microsoft made clear TV white spaces tech should be one of them.

"It's time to close the broadband gap for rural America," added Shelley McKinley, Microsoft's head of technology and corporate responsibility. "Piloting new technology approaches, including TV white spaces, will help rural communities in Mississippi.

"Sharing these learnings will help accelerate broadband connectivity in rural communities everywhere. And with connectivity, comes new and greater opportunities for students, farmers, educators, business owners and communities in rural areas to access the technology and digital skills needed to learn, grow, contribute and prosper in a digital economy."

Broadcasters are not as high on the use of the TV band for unlicensed wireless given what they say have been ongoing problems with the database that must identify TV channels in use by broadcasters to ensure that those signals are not interfered with.

Related: Senators Press FCC for Action on White Spaces

Microsoft has been ramping up its "white spaces" effort. It had initially planned to bring access to 2 million people by July 2022, but Microsoft President Brad Smith announced in Washington Dec. 4, that it was ahead of schedule and was upping the ante to 3 million by that date.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.