How unused TV frequencies can connect rural areas to the digital world

In today’s increasingly tech and digital world, it’s important that everyone is included.

Access to high-speed internet has become a basic necessity of everyday life. Yet currently, Microsoft data suggests more than half of the country is not using the internet at broadband speeds.

The Microsoft Airband Initiative is bridging the digital divide by bringing broadband connectivity to remote communities. One cost-effective method involves using TV White Spaces – the unused frequencies between the signals of existing TV channels. Regulators allow wireless devices to transmit on these unoccupied channels as long as they do not interfere with TV broadcasters and other licensed users.

[Read more: What telephones and television can teach us about the adoption of broadband]

White Space signals can travel long distances, penetrating natural and human-built obstacles, and can leverage existing towers and infrastructure being used to transmit other wireless signals. Network operators can harness this White Space spectrum to deliver fast, reliable and cost-effective broadband internet access to rural communities and hard-to-reach areas.

Closing the rural broadband gap requires a cost-efficient mixed-technology approach and fixed wireless technologies such as TV White Spaces play an integral role. Other technologies include fiber and satellite. A combination of TV white spaces and other fixed wireless solutions are the ideal and most cost-effective solutions for areas where population density is between 2 and 200 inhabitants per square mile, which represents roughly 80% of those impacted by the rural broadband gap.

Access to broadband means rural businesses can take part in the digital economy; students can use online learning resources; and farmers can use precision agriculture to increase productivity. It also enables remote access to basic and specialized healthcare services.

By July 2022, the initiative’s goal is to extend broadband access to 3 million Americans living in rural parts of the country.

Read more about the Microsoft Airband Initiative. And follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter