The digital divide is not Microsoft’s top priority

Microsoft has recently done A very serious announcement about the rollout of unused television broadcasts to address the digital divide in the US. The news store ate it: “To close the digital divide, Microsoft exploits unused TV channels,” to speak The New York Times on July 10, in a title possibly written by PR people in Redmond. The washington posts has closed a really big number and a year in the plan: “Microsoft wants to bring 2 million rural Americans online by 2022” Hamza Shaban and Brian Fung wrote on July 11th. I think there is another story that these two papers missed.

Microsoft’s plans aren’t really aimed at consumer internet access, aren’t really focused on rural areas, and aren’t aimed at the United States – except for political purposes. Also, the papers were correct.

I admire Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer. He’s a thoughtful, long-term planner and thinker and you can see his geopolitical talent at work here.

Here’s what’s really happening: Microsoft is aiming to be a provider of Internet of Things equipment, software, and consulting services to national and local governments around the world. Need to use more energy efficiently, manage traffic lights, target preventive maintenance and optimize your public transport – but are you a local government with limited resources and capacity? Call Microsoft. Its entire Redmond campus is a smart city. A typical Microsoft story (this article is actually written by Microsoft): “French cities 90% cut costs for drivers with Smart Car Sharing Solution”, all using Microsoft technology “to connect umbrellas. cars, kiosks, charging stations and remote data centers ”.

Now let’s get behind those commendable headlines in Times and Post. Microsoft doesn’t want to have to rely on existing mobile data providers for those plans. Why? Because carriers will want a pound of meat – a percentage – in exchange for shipping data generated by Microsoft devices from Point A to Point B. These costs can become very worthwhile. compared with the number of devices in cities. The carriers have power because in many places they are the only ones allowed to use airwave frequencies – spectrum – under a license from the local government that they paid hundreds of millions of dollars . To get rid of that bottleneck, it would be nice to have one without a license spectrum is available everywhere and inexpensive chipsets and devices available can take advantage of that spectrum.

In the US we already have some unlicensed spectrum, and you’re probably using it right now: Wi-Fi. But it’s mostly at very high frequencies, which means (especially at the low power limits your device is required to use when transmitting and receiving over Wi-Fi) that it doesn’t go very far. is not fading. Here’s why you have to sit inside a Starbucks or McDonald’s to work on your laptop: Waves don’t penetrate walls easily or travel more than about 100 feet. Traditional Wi-Fi has only limited usefulness to keep Microsoft and everyone else from dealing with traditional wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon. Only licensed providers are allowed to transmit and receive at a high power level using the lower frequency spectrum.

For decades, FCC efforts have been made to remove some of the lower frequency spectrum from existing broadcasters to provide general data transmission. There’s a really, really long story here that I won’t burden you. A recent update is that the Commission has finally asked broadcasters to offer some of their low-frequency spectrum to auction and “package” their activity into the narrower frequency range that broadcasts. their usual number required. If you want to learn more, enjoy yourself—I will see you in a week or so.

On the way, people noticed that frequency Between The rest of the TV channels will not be used. That seems like a waste. So the idea became to use those spaces – called guard strips – for unlicensed lines. The immense success of Wi-Fi – and billions of devices and radios built to take advantage of Wi-Fi – is precedent everyone has cited. Do it again, is the idea – except this time, allow anyone to use this unlicensed spectrum between TV bands at a higher power level so that transmissions can go further. It’s the “white space” idea: the distance between TV channels for everyone to use.

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