BROADBAND BREAKFAST INSIGHT: Here, Microsoft is taking the initiative to address the communications failures and other challenges in Puerto Rico. Microsoft is aiming to use its particular variant of TV "white spaces" to allow greater communication capabilities during a time of widespread power outages.
Using TV White Space technology in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, from Microsoft Blog by Shelley McKinley:
More than two months have passed since Puerto Rico and the Caribbean were hit by devastating hurricanes. Like so many people and organizations around the world, Microsoft wanted to help. Following our immediate emergency response, we are continuing to work with government agencies and nonprofit partners to help communities to recover.
Following an initial donation, we are providing cash, technology, services and telecommunications support to people and organizations working to support the recovery process in the region. To date, Microsoft has donated more than $5.1 million to response and recovery efforts including cash grants, employee matching funds, technology and services.
While we all sympathize with the struggle people in the region face as they work to rebuild their lives, it can be difficult to imagine the very real hardships people and organizations face on a daily basis.
In Utuado, Puerto Rico, a mountainous region that was among the hardesthit areas, people and organizations are struggling with their most basic needs. Getting food, water and health care are a challenge, and there are few ways to communicate with people outside the region. Imagine two months after the hurricane, being unable to let your loved ones know you are OK. Or being unable to work or to study.
Microsoft is proud to help address this challenge. In partnership with NetHope, government agencies, local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and local TV broadcasters, we have deployed TV White Space (TVWS) technology from our Airband initiative to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. TVWS are unused blocks of broadcast spectrum located between the frequencies assigned to television stations. It creates wireless broadband connections over great distances and in rugged terrain, with no line of sight. In Utuado, TVWS has been used to reestablish internet connectivity to a food distribution site, a health clinic and the University of Puerto Rico. These sites also serve as internet hotspots where people in the community can come and connect with their family and friends.
(Photograph of flooding in Puerto Rico from Microsoft's humanitarian web page.)