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Coronavirus Roundup: Rob McDowell Recounts COVID19 Ordeal, FCC Telehealth Portal Open, 5G Criticism

David Jelke

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Photo of then-FCC Commissioner Rob McDowell in March 2010 by Greg Elin used with permission

Former Federal Communications Commission Robert McDowell described his ordeal as a COVID-19 survivor in an interview with Multichannel News published on Friday.

McDowell, a 56-year old partner at Cooley LP, a global communications practice in Washington, called his doctor on March 14 to report symptoms that he chalked up to “seasonal allergies.”

It would take time for McDowell to test positive for COVID-19, and by then he was in a hospital ER with a 50 percent chance of survival. Through expert healthcare, meditation techniques, and well-wishing, McDowell recovered returned home to his family on April 1.

McDowell often brought up issues of broadband when recounting his story. When asked by interviewer John Eggerton whether the FaceTime sessions he had with his doctor during the early stages of the illness demonstrated the value for telemedicine and connectivity, McDowell replied “Yes, this was the mobile internet. Thank goodness for all those spectrum auctions I helped promote.”

The interviewer also asked McDowell if he would be comfortable giving the government his personal data for the purposes of contact tracing or creating a coronavirus database.

“I have already arranged for all of my relevant medical information to be used for studies. It depends on what they want, but I would be happy to provide all relevant information that could be helpful. And as soon as I am healthy enough, I will be donating plasma in hopes that it can actually save somebody.”

After referencing a tweet from McDowell revealing perhaps a cavalier attitude towards the virus in traveling to New York City on March 8 and writing, “this is a great time to travel,” the interviewer asked what McDowell might say now “to anyone now who thinks that we are overreacting to the virus?”

“We’re not,” McDowell said

FCC announces that coronavirus telehealth program portal to open on Monday 

The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced on Friday that it would begin accepting applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program beginning Monday at www.fcc.gov/covid19telehealth.

The COVID-19 Telehealth Program will provide $200 million in funding, appropriated by Congress as part of the CARES Act, to help health care providers furnish connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The FCC is moving quickly to distribute this funding to help health care providers and patients across the country during the coronavirus pandemic,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“Given the importance of social distancing, telehealth is more important than ever, so we are pleased to do our part to help healthcare providers purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing connected care.”

Applications can be filed through a dedicated application portal, which will be available beginning Monday April 13, 2020 at 12 Noon ET on the COVID-19 Telehealth Program page at www.fcc.gov/covid19telehealth.

To assist applicants in preparing their applications, an explainer video will also be posted on Monday on the FCC’s website.   Questions specific to the application process should be directed to EmergencyTelehealthSupport@fcc.gov.

Cloud Communications Alliance criticizes FCC’s approach towards 5G Fund for Rural America

The Cloud Communications Alliance called the FCC’s recent steps in rolling out the 5G Fund for Rural America “extremely concerning,” according to a press released on Thursday. Said alliance CEO Steven Berry:

“Unfortunately, the FCC is publishing eligibility maps that bear little relationship to where there is or is not actually coverage.

“The analysis itself notes that the maps released today may bear little resemblance to the areas actually available for funding in an auction, which is extremely concerning. At a time when everyone is recognizing the importance of bridging the digital divide, the FCC seems intent on moving forward with spending $9 billion without bothering to measure the scope of the problem they are purporting to solve.

“This approach does nothing to help ensure that unserved and underserved areas have access to robust mobile broadband services. Instead of further analysis on what areas could be eligible, the FCC should focus on implementing the Broadband DATA Act to make data-driven decisions about what areas should receive funding for the next decade of mobile deployment.”

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