Microsoft on Tuesday announced a new campaign to try to “eliminate” the gap in high-speed internet access in the country’s hardest-to-reach areas — an effort called the Rural Airband Initiative, which will set an ambitious target of bringing better broadband to two million Americans within the next five years. From a report: The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant plans to start its efforts in 12 states, offering seed money — Microsoft wouldn’t specify the amount — to local telecom providers that are trying to improve internet access through means like “white spaces,” which are the invisible, wireless radio airwaves that aren’t already owned by broadcasters. From Microsoft point of view, this approach — aimed at delivering speedy wireless internet — is the best way to improve connectivity in parts of the country that broadband providers long have ignored, given the prohibitive costs of building and sustaining networks there. By Microsoft’s count, more than 23 million Americans in rural areas currently lack high-speed internet access, despite billions of dollars in federal investment. But the company emphasized that it is not looking to become a telecom provider — it’s only providing capital to local firms — and does not seek to profit from the endeavor. Through revenue-sharing agreements, Microsoft instead plans to invest any money it raises in additional projects in other states where internet access is lacking.
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