Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) has announced plans to bring internet access to millions of rural Americans.
The technology giant has proposed a five-year plan to increase internet access to over two million people in the US, through unused television airwaves.
“This is really all about getting everybody online in rural communities,” said Microsoft’s chief legal officer,Brad Smith. “That includes consumers, it includes businesses, it includes farmers and agricultural enterprises and it includes schools.”
“Our goal is to work with as many people as possible,” he said, adding he hopes the Trump Administration will consider government funding for the project as part of an infrastructure bill expected in the fall.
“My sense is that they are focused on a full range of infrastructure needs, including 21st-century infrastructure like broadband. We welcome the dialogue.”
According to Forrester analyst James McQuivey, Microsoft’s plan is a low-risk and high reward.
“It would only be valuable to Microsoft if the company uses that engagement to build a branded relationship with the customer, moving them to Bing as a search engine, encouraging them to use Office 365, Outlook, and Skype,” he said.
The television signals that Microsoft will use travel four times more than the distance of Wi-Fi, which translates to up to 16 times the coverage area for broadcast towers in all directions. The signals also are also more able to pass through hills and walls, which are often seen as obstacles with wifi.
The tech giant has already extensively tested the technology and has run 20 pilot efforts and connected an approximate 185,000 people.
Smith said that the revolution in internet access was prompted by issues raised by Trump’s win last year.
“In all honesty, the election did provide a wake-up call for all of us in the country to think about the role of rural counties,” he said.