Microsoft Creates Coalition To Get Rural America Searching Online

Marketers are missing out on connecting with the majority of consumers living in rural America -- those towns with welcome signs boasting a population of, for example, 190.

The folks who live in these towns buy online too, when they have access to search engines and retail stores or social media sites through their internet service provider (ISP). In fact they buy more stuff online and depend more on the information they find online than residents of Los Angeles or New York.

Crossing the digital divide is often difficult. These towns often have few resources -- perhaps one or two ISP options -- and are typically miles from the nearest store.  

Microsoft has announced that it will form a coalition called Connect Americans Now (CAN) to close that digital divide.

Coalition members include the trade organization The App Association, the National Rural Education Association, Alaska Communications, Acxiom, Mid-Atlantic Broadcasting Communities, and the American Pain Relief Institute, among many others. broadband



The movement focuses on convincing the Federal Communications Commission to eliminate regulatory hurdles that the group says stand in the way of widespread rural broadband deployment.

CAN wants the FCC to ensure sufficient unlicensed low-band spectrum in every market to enable broadband connectivity. About 23.4 million out of the 34 million Americans who live in rural areas don’t have a broadband connection. Perhaps that's why Google has been focusing on mobile, which typically goes through a cellular carrier and not WiFi.

With the announcement Microsoft released a coauthored report on the top ten technology issues that the company will monitor and address in 2018. Among them is data privacy, a cause that is taking the companies legal team all the way to the nation's top court.

The coauthored report, from Microsoft President Brad Smith and Microsoft Director of Communications Carol Ann Browne, cited technology for rural communities as one of the top issues.

CAN believes "broadband access will drive economic growth and job opportunities by enabling rural small businesses to expand their customer base from local to global and attract new industries to rural communities," but that also means helping these companies build websites. Many do not have one. Instead they rely on a Facebook page to be found online.

The group also believes it will have the 5 million students without high-speed internet access keep up with their online school assignments, especially those being home schooled. Other areas include telemedicine.

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