Microsoft touts rural broadband plan at governors’ meeting in Phoenix

More details on how Microsoft Airband will operate, see blue highlighted text below.

CHRIS MCCRORY | THE REPUBLIC | AZCENTRAL.COM

Rural areas in Arizona will be among the first to try a new broadband internet technology being launched by Microsoft, a company executive said during a panel discussion in Phoenix on Friday.

Arizona is among 13 states identified as the first to test pilot a new Microsoft initiative to bring internet to rural areas.

“We’re launching a series of pilot projects in states around the country over the course of five years,” said Ryan Harkins, director of state affairs and public policy at Microsoft.

Harkins explained the plan during a session of the winter 2017 meeting of the Western Governors Association in Phoenix on Friday. He was part of a panel discussing the past and future of the Western United States.

Over the next year, the cloud-computing giant has pledged to roll out “Airband,” technology to several rural areas in Arizona, as well as other states, Harkins said.

The technology uses TV white spaces, which are unused television channels, to transmit Wi-Fi signals to small businesses and homes within 10 miles of a transmitter.

“TV white spaces provide broadband using unused TV channels over the air,” Harkins said. “(You have a) base station, hook it up to the internet, broadcast the signal to a 10-mile radius to homes, businesses and farms.”

The method is limited, he cautioned, saying internet speeds through Airband are “good enough.”

It’s not fiber speeds, but it is possible to achieve speeds that meet the FCC’s definition of broadband,” Harkins said. “Which is fast enough to stream a movie or do anything a small business or homeowner wants to do.”

The base station towers will be paid for by Microsoft and local internet providers will offer the internet service, he said.

“We’ll provide capital investment to get the (project) off the ground,” Harkins said. “It is much cheaper to build the infastructure needed to get broadband up and running than traditional forms of broadband, which has been the classic problem as to why we have this broadband gap.”

This technology, Harkins said, will allow people in the far reaches of Arizona and other rural communities to take advantage of the benefits that technology is providing to the rest of the country.

“We live in a time of profound change,” he said. “It is a revolution that is driven largely by cloud computing. This trend is changing everything. Every industry.”

Read the rest of the article HERE.

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