Capitol Hill Focuses on Expanding Broadband in Rural America
Washington, D.C.: Rural broadband is a hot topic on Capitol Hill this week. Both legislative bodies have seen proposals being floated to expand broadband focusing on rural America. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put forth their own proposal, the Connected Care Pilot Program, which aims to appropriate $100M to support the infrastructure needed to use broadband for better health outcomes. The FCC’s program focuses on helping low-income and veterans access telehealth and other services made possible by increased funding for broadband.
A positive sign in the fight for rural health equity is the $520K package from HHS that community health centers in Montana will receive, as announced this week. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont) has said that the money will be used for essentials such as electronic medical records, telehealth, and statewide health information exchanges. The grant will help cover the immense costs of operations that inevitably will be faced when utilizing new technology. These facilities are some of the only health care providers in rural Montana, and the new resources under this grant will increase the access to critical and affordable health care the citizens of the state deserve.
There is a real disparity in America between urban and rural areas and their access to high-speed and quality internet services. A striking 35% of rural Americans do not have access to high-speed fixed service, and 30 million Americans have been left on the other side of the digital divide. It is time to stop withholding the innumerable health and economic benefits that come with reliable, high-speed broadband access from rural Americans. Rural broadband access is a commonsense, bipartisan legislative priority, that has the potential to reshape how rural Americans receive their care.