Microsoft has announced its launch of a new fund with the intention of helping startups and commercial companies to offer access to affordable Internet in “underserved markets.”

Microsoft’s new Affordable Access Initiative will offer grants to commercial enterprises that that can prove demonstrable scalable solutions, which can facilitate access to the Internet in the parts of the globe that have little to no access.

According to the company, there are still more people in the world who do not have access to the Internet than those who do.

That’s a massive 57 percent of the world’s global population.

microsoft

“Today there are approximately 4 billion people globally without Internet access,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft. “The ability to close that gap is more achievable than ever with technology that is readily available and affordable in many parts of the world. Through this fund, we hope to kick-start the entrepreneurial process by identifying promising ideas that we can help nurture, grow and scale.”

Microsoft’s announcement is just the latest move among tech heavyweights in the field. Both Alphabet and Facebook have launched their own initiatives recently to grant the entire world Internet access.

Project Loon

Internet giant, Alphabet (Google, in all but name,) has come to an arrangement with three of the biggest mobile operators in Indonesia, to bring Google’s balloon powered Internet to the next stage of development. The move will hopefully bring the web within reach of 100 million Indonesians who currently have either limited, or no access at all to the web.

project loon

Google unveiled its super pressure Internet balloons back in 2013 when it tested the concept by launching over 20 of small balloons in New Zealand.  While the original speed was limited to 3G speed, new kit and technological advances have been made, so that now Google expects to offer speeds of around 10 megabits a second.

Deadlines.

Companies deemed worthy enough to be selected stand to receive “approximately $75,000 in funding and free software and services.” The deadline for application is 11:59pm Pacific Time on January 15, 2016.

Application forms can be found on the Affordable Access Initiative homepage.