Microsoft Wants To Expand Broadband For Rural Iowa And Illinois

Oct 3, 2018

Cost comparisons for connecting rural Americans
Credit Microsoft

Rural residents of eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois could soon have better access to the internet. Microsoft has joined forces with a company called Network Business Systems to offer broadband access to more than 126,000 people in 11 counties.

Shelley McKinley is the head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility for Microsoft.

"The reason connecting people in rural parts of America matters is because in order to deliver technology that helps solve some of the 21st century problems, we need 21st century technology in those areas."

broadband is delivered to rural areas using TV white spaces antenna
Credit Microsoft

She says ten years ago the company began trying to make broadband technology available in developing countries, including Asia and Africa. And now it's trying to do the same in rural America, using what's called "tv white spaces," un-used channels in the tv spectrum.

"TV white spaces is a really promising technology for rural areas because it can travel long distances like terrestrial television can. So you can cover a much bigger area with a less population density than you see in urban areas."

Microsoft began its first rural broadband project last year in Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, and several other states. Now it wants to roll out the service in Scott, Clinton, and Muscatine counties in Iowa, plus Bureau, Henderson, Henry, Knox, Mercer, Rock Island, Warren, and Whiteside counties in Illinois.

The company estimates there are more than 19 million Americans living in small towns and rural areas with no broadband access. And its goal is to connect at least 2 million, during the next five years.