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Microsoft To Bring Internet Access To Rural American Communities
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Microsoft To Bring Internet Access To Rural American Communities

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Microsoft has organized a five-year plan to bring the Internet to rural America. The corporate giant has pledged to grant Internet access for 2 million Americans. Additionally, Microsoft is aiming to encourage additional phone companies to spread broadband accessibility to the whole 23.4 million Americans living in rural areas without Internet connection.

As of 2016, the Internet is used on a daily basis by 70% of Americans. Easily accessible by many and a source of information on-the-go, the modern use of the Internet could very well be compared to the pre-modern use of the public library system.

Because it’s used by so many as a way of communicating information and knowledge to one another, the intentional obstruction of Internet access to civilians has been dubbed a violation of human rights according to the United Nations.

However, many Americans are not barred from Internet access intentionally. Many Americans living in poverty are unable to access the Internet because they cannot afford it. And for those in rural areas of the United States, it just simply isn’t available.

NPR reports, “In some rural areas, parents have to drive their kids to the parking lot of the local library so their kids can file homework. In 2017, not being online hurts your education, your job prospects, your civic engagement.” It also increases your chances of identity theft. In 2016, one in 16 Americans were victims of identity theft, a crime which benefits more from the theft of physical documents than the theft of personal information stored online.

NPR reports that Microsoft previously opted out of transmitting broadband data in rural American areas because of the lack of profit that would result from such a business venture. However, it seems Microsoft has had a change of heart.

“We perhaps looked less than we should have at what was happening in rural America,” says Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, to NPR. “We went overseas, and that’s a good thing. We should be around the world. But we also should be focused on our own backyards.”

The corporation is planning to utilize technology called TV white spaces, which is a more affordable technology that runs on a wireless spectrum as a means of transmitting broadband data. Closing the Internet gap between rural and urban areas, according to Microsoft, would cost up to $10 billion. However, this is 80% less expensive than if the company chose to use a more expensive infrastructure.

Microsoft has begun speaking with the Federal Communications Commission, headed by chairman Ajit Pai, and has asked them to not only guide politicians in the right direction regarding the rural initiative, but also to collect the necessary data on the broadband coverage of rural American areas. “While one should always hesitate to be optimistic about anything in our nation’s capital these days,” says Smith, “I do think there is a cause for optimism around this.”