High speed internet has quickly become ubiquitous with everyday life, right at our fingertips whenever we might need it. It’s estimated that 300 million Americans have access to broadband internet, letting them connect to other people around the world in the blink of an eye. This is being viewed more and more as a necessity of life, comparable to water and electricity. Yet there is a large segment of our population who do not have access to the internet in the same ways, and they are feeling the effects of it.
The FCC recently estimated that 34 million Americans currently do not have access to broadband internet, with 24 million of those Americans living in rural communities. This has significant detrimental effects on local economies, making it difficult to attract businesses and sustain growth. Thankfully, help is on the way.
Microsoft announced in July that they would be partnering with telecommunications companies to bring broadband access to 2 million Americans. Through a mixture of a number of different technologies, Microsoft wants to provide access to this all-important resource and allow our rural communities to begin to grow and prosper economically.
While Microsoft’s “Rural Airband Initiative” will target 2 million people at first, the hope is to expand and bring broadband to 23 million more, and then the rest of the country. This is an important milestone in American infrastructure development. The need for strong digital infrastructure will likely never go away, and bringing high speed internet to everyone will have profound effects on businesses and local economies. The GAIN coalition is hopeful that this will be Microsoft leading by example, and that we’re seeing the first steps in a comprehensive effort to fund infrastructure projects and bring high speed, broadband internet to our rural communities.