Microsoft recently unveiled an ambitious plan to help rural America access broadband internet under its Rural Airband Initiative.  The project will aim to connect an estimated 23.4 million Americans in rural areas who lack access to a 25 Mbps connection (defined as broadband internet by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)).  In addition to helping individuals within the areas, local rural small businesses could receive a boost as well, granting access to more urban areas and ideas with faster internet.

The project is estimated to last for 5 years, with the goal of connecting at least 2 million Americans in rural areas by 2022.  According to Small Business Trends, “The estimated total capital and initial operating cost to eliminate the rural broadband gap falls into a range of $8 to $12 billion. This is roughly 80 percent less than the cost of using fiber cables alone. The approach is also over 50 percent cheaper than the cost of current fixed wireless technology like 4G, according to Redmond, Washington-based tech giant.”

The new initiative will also act as a training and educational system thanks to Microsoft’s charitable arm Microsoft Philanthropies.  The project will “train people on the new technology to improve education, health care and agriculture, in addition to improvements in rural small businesses.”

“Microsoft, working together with its partners, said it plans to have 12 rural broadband projects up and running in 12 states in the next 12 months, including in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.”

Microsoft Is Investing $10 Billion to Bring Broadband to Rural U.S. Businesses