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Leroy Jones, Jr. is the creator of Talking Technology with Leroy Jones, Jr.

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The FCC: Steps Up for Rural Communities

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Recent years have been good to Americans with access to high-speed broadband.  Record numbers of us have smartphones and home broadband, according to a Pew report this year and average U.S. broadband speeds have more than tripled since 2011.


But far too many Americans still lack broadband access, especially in rural areas.  The FCC's 2016 Broadband Progress Report concluded that 39% of rural Americans did not have access to fixed broadband (25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up).  By comparison, only 4% of urban residents lack access.

 

Moreover, high-speed internet prices are also significantly higher in rural areas.  A recent analysis claimed that rural residents pay as much as 300% more for comparable service than suburban residents.

 

As a son of rural America it is good to see a bipartisan consensus forming on improving rural broadband, both in Congress and at the FCC. Give credit to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who has made rural broadband improvement a cornerstone of his service as Chair.

 

Last week, under Pai's leadership, a unanimous FCC approved separate procedures to speed the Commission's two most important rural broadband initiatives.  These procedures involve data collection and decision challenges for the upcoming Connect America Fund II and Mobility Fund II auctions, which begin in 2018.  The details are complex (see here and here) but together, their adoption signals a heightened seriousness at the FCC for helping residents in small towns and communities to gain the broadband access that Americans in urban areas have had for years.

 

The stakes with this issue are huge.  A 2015 study by university researchers found that among similarly situated rural counties, those with more households connected to broadband had higher incomes and lower unemployment than those with fewer. The study also found that rural counties with lower broadband adoption saw slower growth in the number of firms and total employment than similar counties with higher adoption.

 

As one of the authors, Professor Sharon Strover, told The Wall Street Journal this spring:


"Having access to broadband is simply keeping up. Not having it means sinking."


This lack of broadband hits hard in many rural communities - for example, the 911 dispatcher in Missouri who was unable to track approaching storms because the Internet kept going out. This lack of viable access is also contributing to the population stagnation felt in many rural communities across the Midwest.

 

With the exception of the last few years, U.S. broadband policy for decades operated free from the partisan shouting that paralyzed progress on other issues. The past few years saw a breakdown of this unity but happily, things seem to be moving in the right direction, at least on rural deployment. 

 

Chairman Pai deserves credit for this. Here's hoping that he can keep this progress going.


LJJ

(TechnicalJones)

mHealth: Broadband & Rural Healthcare

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TechJones_Aug 2017.jpg

The access to broadband is needed to improve both the quality life and the economic opportunities for folks who live in rural areas!

Check out this article:


"Hospitals and healthcare services are well known economic drivers in small cities and rural areas. Adding broadband infrastructure to the mix can leverage better services - and more jobs."

(via @dailyyonder)

mHealth & Rural Health Care

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Tech writer Mark Jamison at AEI's Tech Policy Daily recently offered an interesting proposal for federal regulators this year:

 

"Net neutrality has become an illusion in that its rhetoric leads to the appearance of giving customers greater opportunity and controlling market power. The reality is that it is keeping the poorest and most economically vulnerable among us from getting the services the rest of us take for granted. Let's resolve to stop this."

 

The overlooked impact of last February's FCC vote to begin micromanaging the Internet with 1934 "Title II" rules is that it hits hardest on society's disadvantaged. First, they're less likely to have broadband service.  Second, they have the greatest needs since broadband gives them access to services such as mHealth, and telehealth that they're less likely to have elsewhere.

 

The FCC's decision to saddle broadband technologies with Title II rules directly undercuts our ability to deploy high-speed broadband.  Therefore it also directly undercuts any effort to expand health care access. 

 

The latest evidence of these problems came last Tuesday, as an Arkansas Internet provider told Congress how the FCC's action had forced her company to delay plans to deploy across Central Arkansas. Elizabeth Bowles, head of Aristotle ISP, testified, "Before [the FCC's action], it was our intention to triple our customer base by deployment of a redundant fixed wireless network...." But the firm had to pull back because of what she called "the risks [and] expense" of complying with the FCC's rules.

 

So tens of thousands of residents in Central Arkansas lost a broadband option that could have linked them to quality health care access.

 

To put this in perspective, consider the health care challenges faced in that state.  Arkansas ranks 48th in overall healthcare, according to a 2015 surveyNearly 40% of rural residents are obese, and there is a growing health disparity among the less educated.

 

Nor is Arkansas alone in these problems. Rural healthcare access remains a crucial issue across much of the U.S., particularly in areas without public transportation.  A 2013 study found that transportation barriers limit health care access, especially for those living in lower income communities.  These individuals are more likely to miss appointments which leads to delayed care and an inability to properly manage chronic illnesses.

 

Telehealth and mHealth will not solve every healthcare problem. But they can solve many - and at an affordable cost. 

 

The FCC should stop undercutting online health care access - and broadband deployment in general - in a misguided attempt to regulate the Internet.

 

LJJ

(TechnicalJones)


mHealth: Why Health Care Access Needs a Lifeline

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A remarkable demographic change is happening among elderly Americans.  It's a trend that the U.S. Census Bureau recently called, "a gray revolution in living arrangements" and the implications for health care access are huge.


There are now almost 27 million households headed by someone 65 and older, a 24% increase over the past decade, according to Census. For women over 75, living alone has overtaken staying with relatives as the most common living scenario.


As a result, the need for dramatic improvements in health care delivery, especially in rural America, is becoming a crucial national issue. As The Journal put it, "Aging in place is proving difficult in places where the population is growing older, supportive services are scarce, houses are in disrepair and younger people who can assist have moved away."


The seniors profiled in that article - many living alone in rural areas - show the need for expanded telehealth and mHealthpractices. Telehealth and mHealth are vital to expanding access to diagnoses and monitoring services that would otherwise only be available after a long car ride.


But while Federal and State officials increasingly recognize the importance of telehealth and mHealth, the inevitable question is - how can we make this happen? Larry Irving, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance, has an excellent idea: expand the federal Lifeline Program to include broadband Internet service.


Irving, who has been writing for decades about the need to expand broadband Internet service, envisions a scenario in which consumers in need receive direct subsidies to purchase broadband. This, in turn, stimulates competition for broadband deployment.  Administration of the new program would rest with an appropriate Federal agency. 


Perhaps the most important aspect of Irving's insightful idea is that Federal benefits will go directly to those most in need. As Irving correctly notes, the tens of millions of Americans still not connected to broadband "tend to be older, poorer, sicker or live in rural communities."  


The Lifeline program today is focused solely on telephone service.  To be sure, phone service remains vital. Yet in today's society, phone service without broadband is incomplete - like a car whose tires are almost, but not quite, flat. Modernizing the Federal Lifeline program would address this problem efficiently and effectively.


American society is changing and so are our health care needs.  Modernizing the Federal Lifeline program is an important step forward to address those needs.



LJJ

(TechnicalJones)

@TechnicalJones: Improving mHealth

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@TechnicalJones: Rural Health Test

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As things change . . . what does it all mean
for the folks down home?:


Rural town serves as health care experiment


http://rtwelter.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/rural-health.jpg


@TechnicalJones: Rural Health Care & Broadband

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I've always been a big supporter for using innovation and advances in technology to reform our health care system, especially for those living in remote areas where there are little, or no, medical resources.
 
It also takes changing some of the basic fundamentals for delivering these services.  Last week, the Federal Communications Commission redefined its definition of Universal Service, moving it from a time-honored voice-centric fund for basic phone service to one focused on the broadband needs of consumers and businesses in the 21st Century.  The transformation is really good news for people living and working in rural areas, where a majority of the government funding will be allocated to deliver broadband services.
 
While everyone might not agree with all the changes to the Universal Service Fund (USF), the FCC believes it should help spread the availability of broadband services to the more than 18 million American households in rural areas that have no access to high-speed Internet service and that aren't likely to get it soon because it costs too much to build the service out to their homes. 
 
One reason rural areas were left out of the "broadband build-out" was the cost associated with providing the service.  The new USF intends to provide subsidies for areas where there is no business case for companies to provide service on their own and would fund wireless broadband access in remote or rugged areas.
 
However you look at it, this is a positive step by government, and companies in the public/private sector, in supporting the delivery of broadband to rural communities.  And, when broadband services are available, offering mHealth services may not be far behind.  The delivery of broadband, as well as mHealth services, could also lead to job growth, as people working in the health care sector consider extending medical services to outlying areas currently underserved by their practice or hospital.
 
More detail on the FCC's overhaul of the USF will be forthcoming shortly.  Hopefully it won't take long to update and enact the new USF, have companies use the funds to build out broadband, and turn the promises and benefits of mHealth into reality for rural communities across the country.  




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@TechnicalJones: Rural Care

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Interesting story on the rural health care:

Health care: The everywhere issue


Dr. David Dougherty, right, meets with patient Pauline Stone and her husband David Stone of Caledonia as part of Pauline's cancer treatment at Wilmot Cancer Center. The medical community is using more technology to keep and share patient records. High-tech solutions can save money.





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@TechnicalJones: e-Health & Broadband

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Attended the Institute for e-Health Policy event yesterday in D.C.

Check it out:

July 13, 2011 Event: "The Information Technology Infrastructure: Public / Private Sector Broadband Buildout for Rural, Minority and Underserved Communities"





Institute for e-Health Policy - Jeff Brueggeman of AT&T (1)


Institute for e-Health Policy - Jeff Brueggeman of AT&T (2)


Institute for e-Health Policy - Odell Tuttle of Healthland (1)



Institute for e-Health Policy - Odell Tuttle of Healthland (2)


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@TechnicalJones: e-Health & Broadband

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Attended the Institute for e-Health Policy event yesterday in D.C.

Check it out:

July 13, 2011 Event: "The Information Technology Infrastructure: Public / Private Sector Broadband Buildout for Rural, Minority and Underserved Communities"





Institute for e-Health Policy - Jeff Brueggeman of AT&T (1)


Institute for e-Health Policy - Jeff Brueggeman of AT&T (2)


Institute for e-Health Policy - Odell Tuttle of Healthland (1)



Institute for e-Health Policy - Odell Tuttle of Healthland (2)


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