Microsoft aims to provide Internet via unused TV bandwidth

New York: To take Internet services to rural America, Microsoft is reportedly planning to harness the unused channels or bandwidth between television broadcasts, known as “white spaces”.

The software giant intends to start a white spaces broadband service in 12 states, including Arizona, Kansas, New York and Virginia, to connect two million rural Americans in the next five years who have limited or no access to high-speed Internet,” The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

Microsoft President Brad Smith hailed “white spaces” as “the best solution for reaching over 80 per cent of people in rural America who lack broadband today”.

The white spaces technology is also called “Super Wi-Fi,” owing to its similarity to regular Wi-Fi except that it provides far longer range using low-powered television channels.

To support its plan, Microsoft is reportedly appealing to federal and state regulators to guarantee the use of unused television channels and investments in promoting the technology in rural areas.

“The company is not planning to get into telecom service providing business directly, but will work with local Internet service providers like Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities in Virginia and Axiom Technologies in Maine by investing in them,” the report noted.

However, the company will have to overcome some challenges such as economic viability of the project owing to the cost of devices and infrastructure.

Several television broadcasters have also opposed this move, fearing interference with the broadcasts run on neighbouring channels.