Although an unexpected message from the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, our aim is really about opportunity and community. We believe that communications policy—rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity—has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities to bridge our divides. We don't believe that broadband educates children. We do believe that broadband facilitates vital connections between students and teachers, especially during this time when so many schools are shuttered. We don't believe broadband makes you healthy.
On May 12, House Democrats unveiled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. "We are presenting a plan to do what is necessary to address the corona crisis," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she announced the legislation.
Community anchor institutions should be at the center of any comprehensive national strategy to promote the availability and use of High-Performance Broadband. Community anchor institutions use broadband to provide essential services to their community, such as education, information access, and telehealth services. But in the 21st century, community anchors’ missions are moving beyond their walls. Libraries no longer deliver knowledge that is housed only within their buildings or the covers of hardbound books.
What happens when a prime time TV show becomes a potential healthcare policy direction, plus a side helping of broadband adoption strategy? An episode of the NBC TV medical melodrama New Amsterdam inspired a five-city telehealth pilot project involving barbershops and hair salons. The show’s medical director had a brilliant idea to enlist barbershops in African-American neighborhoods to screen customers for hypertension (high blood pressure), which leads to an overwhelming majority of the 140,000 stroke-related deaths a year.
Bridging the digital divide can help address our nation’s persistent health disparities. Rural Americans not only face limited access to health-care facilities, but “suffer from higher rates of obesity, mental health issues, diabetes, cancer, and opioid addiction.” But the tie that also binds is the lack of high-speed broadband connectivity in low-income communities, too. Rural America, as you know, is facing a physician shortage and low-income and rural populations are less likely to have choice when it comes to broadband providers.
Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the agenda for the Federal Communications Commission's July 10 Open Meeting, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai laid out in a blog post on June 18, 2019. I'm traveling to New York this week; below is a shorter-than-usual weekly that takes a look at how Chairman Pai plans to take education out of the Educational Broadband Service -- and broadcast television.
The Benton Foundation unequivocally opposes any proposals from the Federal Communications Commission that would allow the FCC to shirk its responsibilities to meet its Congressionally-mandated mission. The FCC is supposed to ensure:
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to 16 members of Congress on June 22, 2020, to respond to their letter asking the FCC for information on how it will select applicants for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Pai said the FCC consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify the hardest-hit areas and the FCC has taken steps to ensure health care providers have the necessary information to participate.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) on June 23, 2020, to respond to their letter urging the FCC to take steps to make more rural health care funding available to providers during the pandemic. Chairman Pai said the FCC extended the RHC program window until June 30, 2020, eased competitive bidding requirements for providers with expired evergreen contracts, and extended a number of filing deadlines.
The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau approved an additional 70 funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Health care providers in both urban and rural areas of the country will use this $31.63 million in funding to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic. To date, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which was authorized by the CARES Act, has approved 514 funding applications in 46 states plus Washington, D.C.