Microsoft lays out 3-step plan to improve rural broadband, notes healthcare implications

Jessica Kim Cohen - Print  | 

The U.S. should pledge to eliminate the rural broadband gap by 2022, according to a Microsoft report.

The report, titled "A Rural Broadband Strategy," notes 34 million Americans lack broadband internet connection, and 23.4 million of these individuals live in rural areas. To alleviate this disparity, Microsoft suggests implementing a technology model focused on television broadcast frequencies, fixed wireless and satellite coverage, which it says is more affordable than other recommendations, like LTE fixed wireless technology.

In the report, Microsoft committed to a "rural airband initiative," pledging to invest resources to promote its suggested technology model. The initiative comprises three steps: investing in telecommunications partnerships, training rural youth in digital literacy and allowing other developers to access select Microsoft patents related to broadband connectivity.

"We believe the nation can bring broadband coverage to rural America in this timeframe, based on a new strategic approach that combines private sector capital investments focused on new technologies along with affordable public sector support," the report reads.

Broadband may improve agriculture, energy and environment business processes, according to Microsoft. In particular, the company notes broadband plays a growing role in managing healthcare delivery, as hospitals turn to telemedicine to address physician shortages in rural areas.

"Investing more resources to improve the connectivity of broadband to hospitals and healthcare providers based in rural communities would likely yield better services in health protection and restore greater efficiency to wellness programs for those in need," according to the report.

Click here to view the full report.

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