Is Microsoft Hustling Us With "White Spaces"?
Susan Crawford wrote an interesting article on July 26th for Wired. I don't agree with her all of the time, but on this topic, Susan nails it perfectly:
Microsoft recently made a big announcement about deploying unused television airwaves to solve the digital divide in America. The Washington Post titled an article summarizing their plan as "Microsoft wants to bring 2 million rural Americans online by 2020." Sounds good so far.
As Susan points out, Microsoft's plan really isn't about consumer internet access. Microsoft's goal is to be a software and provider of Internet of Things (IoT) to all devices in the United States and around the world. Do they want to pay the wireless operators for access to provide these services? No. How about asking for three free broadcast channels using unlicensed spectrum in all markets (urban and rural) throughout the United States for unlicensed spectrum called "White Spaces"? Note: MSFT has a $550B+ market cap, about $133B in cash and short term instruments, just sat out the Voluntary Incentive Auction and would like 3 "free" channels for their vision.
The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant plans to start its efforts in 12 states (Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin), offering seed money to local telecom providers that are trying to improve internet access through white spaces.
Susan also points out this proposal has something for everyone: It appeals to FCC Chairman Pai and his rural divide plans, the Trump administration for infrastructure, attempts to ring fence MSFT's white space spectrum plans from political tampering, offers the manufacturers a way to ramp-up chip set production/reduce per unit costs and provides a spectrum framework for MSFT to expand their "White Spaces" vision from the U.S. to worldwide.
This proposal is like one of those triple bank shots you see in a pool hall.
You can just imagine the NAB comments after this proposal was announced.
We will be watching this very closely in the months ahead.