ARK Multicasting and Microsoft partner for rural broadband and cloud services

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
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ARK Multicasting and Microsoft Announce Agreement for Rural Broadband and Distributed Cloud Services

DALLAS — ARK Multicasting, Inc. (ARK) today announced a new agreement with Microsoft. The companies will work together to test both innovative technology approaches to address the broadband gap in rural America and Azure-based media distribution using ARK’s next generation broadcast network.

ARK CEO, Vern Fotheringham said, “With Microsoft’s support, ARK believes that this pilot could be the start of standardizing the groundbreaking use of ATSC 3.0 and TV white space technology to bring broadband to rural America. We believe that every community deserves to be connected, whether large or small, and we’re taking the steps to close the connectivity gap through this work.”

The work will begin in Crockett, Texas, where the companies will trial a deployment of NEXTGEN TV, formerly known as ATSC 3.0 (Advanced Television Systems Committee) hybrid broadcast-broadband network to deliver high-quality programming by combining broadcast signals with home internet. This represents one of the first technology pilots to test co-existence of ATSC 3.0 and TV white spaces, which if successful, could unlock more white space spectrum and showcase new approaches to providing a broadband and broadcast solution for unserved communities across rural America.

Broadband connectivity has become critical for enhancing education, improving business efficiencies, and the lives of all citizens regardless of location. As Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has acknowledged, “There’s a big and growing divide, a ‘digital divide,’ in this country between those who have high-quality internet access and those who don’t. Disproportionately, those living in rural America find themselves on the wrong side of that divide.” According to Microsoft’s usage data, more than 162 million people across the United States are not using the internet at broadband speeds.

“Solving the broadband gap will require new and creative approaches to efficiently and affordably deliver connectivity to Americans, particularly in rural areas,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “This collaboration with ARK will test advanced solutions and it is our hope that the results can help remove existing barriers to spectrum and regulatory approvals to more quickly deliver access to broadband.”

The agreement is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to bring broadband access to at least 3 million Americans in unserved rural areas by July 2022. It will pair Microsoft Azure cloud services with ARK’s core NEXTGEN TV broadcast capabilities to shift high demand cloud content directly to the consumer edge. This shift will enable a more robust and less expensive “distributed cloud” for local internet service providers (ISP) across the country who are currently overburdened by on-demand Over-the-Top (OTT) video streaming services that are rapidly congesting the unicast ISP access networks.