Microsoft to Fund Companies That Can Bring Internet to Remote Areas


On Monday, Microsoft said it will stake promising companies that can bring cheap Internet access to underserved communities.

As part of its Affordable Access Initiative, Microsoft will furnish $75,000 grants to qualified applicants with “a working solution” already in process and the wherewithal to scale it to new markets. Applications are due January 15.

It may come as a shock to those of us who suffer withdrawal when we can’t find a working hotspot at lunch, but more than half of the world’s population has no Internet access. Microsoft (MSFT) puts that figure at 57%.

Not being readily connected to outside resources is a huge problem for developing countries trying to build their economies by nurturing businesses and educating citizens compete in the broader world.

And it is also, of course, a problem for companies with a vested interest in selling more cloud-based goods and services to more of those people. So Microsoft is not alone in trying to bring wireless to a world that, thus far, hasn’t been well connected.

Google (GOOG), for example, backs Project Loon, which uses balloons to bring Internet connectivity to remote markets. Microsoft and Google are also experimenting with using TV “white space” spectrum to bring broadband wireless to people in Kenya and South Africa. And the project is a big favorite of Facebook (FB) chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

For more on bringing Internet to unserved geographies, check out the video below.

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