Using TV White Space technology in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

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.

Across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands there are still widespread power outages, nearly 40 percent of cell sites are still down, most people don’t have internet service and many TV and radio stations aren’t yet operational. TVWS technology is helping people in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands reconnect with people outside their immediate communities. In addition to Utuado, we have TVWS sites up and running in Humacao, Puerto Rico; and in the U.S. Virgin Islands in St. Croix, St. Johnand St. Thomas. And, TVWS will soon be working in Barranquitas and San Lorenzo in Puerto Rico. Our hope is that TVWS broadband connections will hasten the recovery in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, making it a little less difficult for people in the region to communicate and to recover.

While it’s heartening to see some progress, there is still much work to do. We’re committed to continuing to play our part in the months and years ahead.

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