Microsoft’s TV White Space tech at work in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands following hurricanes

Microsoft has long been an advocate of White Space technology in the United States, the use of open unused broadcast spectrums (mainly from TV stations) to bring internet to rural areas. In what can be seen as a win for the technology, Microsoft today is pointing out that the company’s partners have used TV White Space tech to assist Puerto Ricans and those in the US Virgin Islands following hurricanes.

Specifically, Utuado, Puerto Rico, a mountainous region of the Island hard hit by the hurricane, is seeing benefits from the TV White Space tech. Microsoft is saying that communications, food and water, and healthcare have been hard to access in the area, but the tech is helping make things easier.

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… 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.

With the company saying that 40% of cell phone sites are still down across the two island nations, Microsoft and partners also have TV White Space sites up and running in Humacao, Puerto Rico; and in the U.S. Virgin Islands in St. Croix, St. Johnand St. Thomas. They are also planning to open more sites soon in Barranquitas and San Lorenzo in Puerto Rico.

Microsoft has already donated more than $5.1 million to all recovery efforts via cash grants, employee matching funds, technology, and services. Great to see that Microsoft is making a difference, as both the use of TV White Space tech and the monetary donations are one step forward in the long road to recovery.