TV white spaces (TVWS) technology provided by Microsoft is helping people in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands reconnect with people outside their immediate communities.

More than two months have passed since Puerto Rico and the Caribbean were ravaged by hurricanes, knocking out internet and cell communications as well as many basic services that still haven’t been restored. 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, according to a Microsoft blog.

Microsoft, in partnership with NetHope, government agencies, local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and local TV broadcasters, has deployed TV White Space (TVWS) technology from the company’s Airband initiative to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to meet some of those communications needs.

Microsoft TV White Spaces in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
TVWS are unused blocks of broadcast spectrum. Technology operating in those bands supports wireless broadband connections over great distances and in rugged terrain, with no line of sight.

In Utuado, TVWS has been used to re-establish 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.

In addition to Utuado, Microsoft has TVWS sites up and running in Humacao, Puerto Rico; and in the U.S. Virgin Islands in St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, according to the blog.  TVWS is expected to 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,” the blog said.

Image courtesy of flickr user Kabsik Park.

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