Broadband Communities

MAY-JUN 2013

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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TELEMEDICINE FCC Launches Healthcare Connect Fund New funding is available for broadband networks that can transform rural health care. Will the program help get telemedicine stakeholders on the same page? By W. James Mac Naughton, Esq. I n December 2012, the Federal Communications Commission created a Healthcare Connect Fund to expand health care providers' access to robust broadband networks. Te new program, which builds on  lessons learned from 50 pilot projects the FCC funded over the last few years, updates the existing Rural Health Care Program. Te fund will distribute $400 million a year to subsidize the delivery of telemedicine in the rural United States. Te terms of the grant are straightforward: Te recipient must be a rural health care provider (or a consortium that includes a majority of rural health care providers) and provide 35 percent of the funding. Te money pays only for bandwidth and network equipment – "the highway but not the cars." Truly providing better health care in the rural United States through telemedicine will require much more than simply writing grant proposals and checks for $400 million. Efective telemedicine requires the creation of efective telemedicine networks, which, in turn, means that all stakeholders – health care providers, device manufacturers, network vendors, broadband providers and, of course, patients – need to get more out of the network than each contributes, even with the subsidies provided by the Healthcare Connect Fund. HERDINg CATS However, as anyone who has ever tried it knows, assembling an efective telemedicine 80 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | network can quickly degenerate into an exercise in herding cats. Telemedicine ofers the ability to deliver health care services remotely over broadband connections. It has been around for many years. Te ability of telemedicine to save time and money is self-evident. Te technology is readily available and of the shelf. It makes so much sense that it should be as common and pervasive as mobile phones. But it's not. Why? Because the stakeholders have diferent metrics for defning contributions and benefts. Tey live in fundamentally diferent economic worlds and operate under signifcantly diferent business models. Tey have not come together on a widespread and pervasive scale because their respective business models do not mesh (unless, of course, one of the stakeholders is so large that it can force the others into line.) Te creation of an efective telemedicine network is therefore a matter of politics, not economics. Te broadband and network communities have long operated under traditional free enterprise principles to guide their business decisions. Free enterprise relies on the invisible hand described by the economist Adam Smith. Innumerable decisions by individual buyers and sellers create a market that prices resources efciently and allocates capital rationally. (Tere are, of course, many government subsidies for broadband that skew the market, but | May/June 2013

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