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Microsoft to harness unused TV channels to ramp up rural wi-fi


They’re calling it “super wi-fi,” and it’s an idea so out of the box that it just might work.

Eliminating the gap in high-speed Internet access is a holy grail for the hardest to reach rural communities. In most cases, the cost of the infrastructure alone means that broadband providers have little to no incentive to expand to less-populated regions. If Microsoft’s newly launched Rural Airband Initiative works, more than 2 million people who lack quality internet access could become better connected in the next five years.

The software giant plans to offer seed money to rural telecom providers and reach users through “white spaces,” which are the invisible, wireless radio airwaves that aren’t already owned by broadcasters.

Gizmodo talked about how crazy the idea was, but that it still is a real possibility: “Enterprising scientists have figured out how to turn that white space into a sort of super wi-fi and broadcast internet service to a many miles-wide radius. What’s extra special is that, unlike wi-fi or cellular service, the stronger TV signal can penetrate buildings and other obstacles.”

In all, Microsoft has said that 23 million Americans lack adequate internet access, and that the Rural Airband Initiative is a key step in helping to change that. For now, the program’s initial targets are 12 states: Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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