Jan 2, 2018

Exclusive: New coalition to bring more internet to rural America

Microsoft, along with a slew of rural broadband and technology groups, is launching a new issue advocacy coalition called Connect Americans Now that aims to eliminate the digital divide in rural America. It's part of a greater push by the company and others to close the broadband gap by using TV "white spaces" spectrum — or vacant channels.that use TV frequencies that are generally cheaper than fiber optic cable. Why it matters: Expanding rural access to broadband has long been a challenge in the U.S., since internet providers worry they'll never recoup the investment they make in building those networks. Roughly 34 million Americans lack a broadband connection and the vast majority – 23.4 million – live in rural areas.

Data: Pew Research survey; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

A senior Microsoft executive says the company will provide staffing and some financial resources as needed. Microsoft will provide small investments in capital expenditure to build the broadband networks, but like any commercial environment, it will take return on investment into consideration. "Any profit we make will reinvest back in networks," he says. The coalition is focusing on these types of airwaves because they can carry communications over greater distances and can better penetrate through walls and other obstacles, like trees, than cellular. It's hoping access to broadband will help rural communities improve their quality of life in different sectors, like health care, education and agriculture. For example, farmers can sell more goods online, and patients in distant areas can receive care remotely.

As part of its campaign, the Coalition will be urging the FCC to reserve vacant channels in every U.S. market to better enable access to broadband internet. Coalition members include Microsoft, the National Rural Education Association, Health and Library Broadband Coalition, HTS Ag, the Mid-Atlantic Broadcasting Communities Corporation, the American Pain Relief Institute, and others.

Microsoft has been at the forefront of this push and has invested in a series of pilot projects designed to serve as catalysts for widespread adoption across rural market:

  • Microsoft president Brad Smith announced the company's ambitious goal of connecting all 23.4 million rural Americans to high-speed internet this summer in Washington.
  • The company started using vacant airwaves between TV stations to power broadband connections in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that were severely damaged by hurricanes last year.

"There are amazing educational resources online, but students without broadband can easily fall behind their peers," said National Rural Education Association Executive Director Allen Pratt.

The website, which features the current CAN coalition members, launches today and can be found here.

Go deeper

Faith in government plummets around the world

People around the world have grown far more cynical about the idea their governments have their best interests at heart, according to polling from Pew.

By the numbers: When Pew last asked this question in 2002, majorities in nearly all countries polled believed their government was run to benefit all people. Amid the current populist wave, there is far more doubt.

Go deeperArrow1 hour ago - World

Israeli election: Netanyahu has momentum despite corruption case

Netanyahu campaigns with a friend behind him. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enters Israel's third elections in 10 months with momentum — and with his corruption trial looming just two weeks after the vote.

Why it matters: Israeli politics have been deadlocked for nearly a year as Netanyahu and his centrist rival, Benny Gantz, grapple for power. Monday's vote could provide the breakthrough, or set Israel on course for yet another election.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - World

Democrats lay out demands for coronavirus funding

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement Thursday outlining their demands for coronavirus funding, including a guarantee that the eventual vaccine is affordable.

The big picture: Pelosi criticized the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak, calling it "chaotic" and chiding President Trump for "name-calling" and "playing politics." She added at a press conference that bipartisan congressional leaders are nearing an agreement on emergency funding.