Broadband Communities

OCT 2018

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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BROADBAND APPLICATIONS | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | O C T O B E R 2 0 1 8 Telehealth and the Digital Divide Telehealth holds the promise of reducing health care costs and improving health outcomes. However, inadequate broadband in both rural and urban areas prevents telehealth services from reaching those who most need them. By Craig Settles / Gigabit Nation T he internet enables patients to be more educated about and participate more in their own health care and enables doctors to be more knowledgeable. As telehealth gains in popularity, it is discussed most often in terms of rural health care. However, quantitative and qualitative research suggest that telehealth is not only a rural issue. No doubt, rural broadband and health care (and by extension, telehealth) urgently need help. But broadband and telehealth in urban areas need help, too. Telehealth advocates often cite the technology's benefits to patients in rural areas two or three hours away from the nearest medical facility. However, travel-time issues plague urban areas as well because of the redlining inadvertently caused by public transportation. "In North Omaha, the public transportation systems are inadequate, so a person trying to get to the main hospital in downtown Omaha may take two hours or more for what should be a 20-minute car ride," states Jennifer Amis, CEO of Encounter Telehealth. It's easy to cast broadband and telehealth challenges in a way that pits urban against rural interests. However, a thorough needs analysis may find that rural and urban communities face similar hurdles – and rewards – and that community-owned broadband can address these issues. For example, the rural digital divide is even more troubling for rural Americans of color. A recent study by Free Press shows that 63 percent of the people living in rural blocks in which people of color make up 90 percent or more of the total population have no wired provider offering 25 Mbps or higher downstream speeds, yet only 39 percent have no provider at this speed threshold in rural blocks where the population is more than 90 percent white. RURAL AND URBAN DIGITAL DIVIDES Communities cannot have telehealth without reliable, fast broadband. Telehealth vendors try to compensate in areas with sketchy broadband by condensing their applications to perform better on cellular networks. However, this strategy doesn't solve the problem. "Our platform works well over cellular," says Amis. "However, if an area has bad broadband, it probably has bad cell phone reception as well." ere is ample data about the lack of good broadband in rural areas. For example, only 58 percent of rural Americans have broadband installed in their homes, according to the Pew Research Center, and those who do often pay exorbitant prices for sluggish speeds. But what about urban areas? "e public has been misinformed," said Eric Brown, president of California Telehealth Network (CTN). "Often in the public discourse, when telehealth is discussed, rural health gets the headlines. ere's no doubt that the rural areas need assistance. But there's a lot of work still needed in urban areas – more than people think." What about articles that say only 4 percent of urban residents don't have broadband

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