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Microsoft Corporation put forth a Rural Airband Initiative on Tuesday to help broadband internet access to the 23 million people living in the rural areas in the U.S.
"The time is right for the nation to set a clear and ambitious but achievable goal -- to eliminate the rural broadband gap within the next five years by July 4, 2022," Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, wrote in a posting on the company's website.
Besides the posting, Smith announced the initiative at a lunch sponsored by the Media Institute in Washington, D.C.
"Broadband has become a vital part of 21st century infrastructure," he noted. "Yet today 34 million Americans still lack broadband internet access, which is defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a 25 Mbps connection. Of these, 23.4 million live in rural parts of our country. People who live in these rural communities increasingly are unable to take advantage of the economic and educational opportunities enjoyed by their urban neighbors."
"Yet despite this glaring disparity, real progress to close the rural broadband gap has plateaued in recent years. High costs, the absence of new and alternative technologies, and market and regulatory conditions have all hampered efforts to expand coverage," said the senior executive.
He claimed that Microsoft has spent several years working on the issue and has worked out a white paper, which was released Tuesday, with its best ideas for a new national rural broadband strategy.
"By relying on this mixture of technologies, the total capital and initial operating cost to eliminate the rural broadband gap falls into a range of 8 to 12 billion U.S. dollars," Smith said, adding that "this is roughly 80 percent less than the cost of using fiber cables alone, and it's over 50 percent cheaper than the cost of current fixed wireless technology like 4G."