May 13, 2020 — The second tier of broadband providers has successfully adapted to the age of the coronavirus by providing customer service and high-speed internet amid social distancing recommendations across the country, said representatives in a webinar Wednesday.
The webinar, hosted by Broadband Communities Magazine Associate Editor Sean Buckley, featured Upstream Network President Bryan Rader, Atlantic Broadband Vice President Regan Anderson, Lumos Networks Senior Director Rob Cale and SpotOn Networks CEO Richard Sherwin.
Representatives remarked that although tier two networks have seen a substantial increase in usage — one provider noted a rise of 75 percent — safe methods of addressing device setup and network connectivity issues have evolved as well.
Atlantic Broadband presented many such protection measures including handwashing kits, gloves, face masks and increased online operations, with Anderson calling these changes a necessity.
“We have to work through the virtual or phones, et cetera, because you’re not really afforded that face to face opportunity,” he said.
Other networks, Atlantic Broadband included, spoke about other adjustments to their service, including virtual support.
Consumers are now able to troubleshoot solutions to equipment problems with a representative via e-mail, telephone, chat or video call.
Sherwin stressed the importance of maintaining current networks as well as preparing for future ones.
“The newest version of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 6, has three times the speed of Wi-Fi 5, increased density … with the added features that Wi-Fi 6 offers, there’s tremendous device capacity within a given access point area,” he said.
Besides the new developments, the companies said, the focus was on consumer safety and health.
“Every company in a sense has had to have some change based on this pandemic,” Anderson said. “The first priority was and always is safety for our employees and our customers.”
Craig Settles: Communities to Roll Out Telehealth Integration
‘We figured out how to train people to be digital navigators [and] get customers comfortable with telehealth.’
A pacesetter among municipal broadband owners, the City of Chattanooga is giving away 1,000 free telehealth appointments that also brings broadband into low-income homes. Vistabeam, a Nebraska Wireless ISP, is bringing telehealth to rural towns through Community Empowerment Centers that increase broadband as well as improve residents’ health.
“The Enterprise Center works hard at the intersection of technology and inequality, whether it’s using technology to work efficiency, for learning, or improving personal health,” states CEO Deb Socia. The center is partnering with residents, community organizations and the Parkridge Medical System to identify needs and bring in resources to combat high levels of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and asthma.
Vistabeam owner Matt Larsen says, “You can’t just lay down some fiber and routers, then call this a broadband success. Rural areas often lack the human and tech resources necessary for broadband to thrive.” So Vistabeam is designing Community Empowerment Centers to offer communities private telehealth consultation rooms, digital skills and telehealth training, full-time digital navigators and inventory rooms with shared computing devices and equipment.
These and other communities are finding that telehealth increases broadband adoption as well as improves the physical and economic health of residents. Telehealth is the “killer app” that can harness and focus broadband investments into digital inclusions advancements for urban and rural communities.
A perfect storm for telehealth
Chattanooga’s public broadband network, through a city electric power board that offers both electricity and broadband, is an advantage to telehealth. Socia says, “EPB has a deep connection to the community, and they invest money, technology in public spaces, and energy upgrades in the homes. EPB cares about the health of our community.” (EPB, formerly known as the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, provides broadband in the city.) Communities without public broadband may have to work harder to find large ISPs with similar levels of commitment.
Communities wanting to leverage telehealth likely will need new strategies for winning and managing grants. You can’t have telehealth without broadband, but the integration of broadband to facilitate telehealth delivery may involve a myriad of people, organizations, and resources besides the network builder.
For years Chattanooga has had a culture of cooperation among its many civic groups. The nonprofit Orchard Knob had a preexisting collaborative, so when the telehealth opportunity came up as part of a larger “healthy community” initiative, it was it much easier to create a grant of the size that the group currently has.
The community created the Orchard Knob Collaborative, which includes Parkridge Medical Center with their 1000 telehealth appointments, the Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga Area and United Way of Greater Chattanooga. EPB contributed money, energy upgrades, and public WiFi. Green Spaces is another nonprofit and the Center provides project management plus various Tech Goes Home digital inclusion programs.
Telehealth opens the door for larger grants. “I think the anticipated grant-raising outcomes are quite specific when you’re producing social determinants of health,” Socia says. “Projects that involve telehealth are a much tougher ‘ask’ for funders and everyone else involved. But at the same time, you can leverage other additional dollars and other partners for a much better healthcare outcome.”
Telehealth and the ‘human element’
Every state is developing a digital equity plan. How important is telehealth to the success of a digital equity plan? Quite important! But remember that telehealth deployment strategy in rural communities likely could take shape differently than urban deployment. Vistabeam’s Centers represent one approach.
Digital equity in telehealth is just one component of a giant ecosystem of social services that good societies use to help take care of people. The challenge is the need to successfully coordinate scarce resources to get maximum impact from the resources. However, in rural communities there can be a real lack of coordination between a lot of these resources.
“It makes sense to start out by focusing on getting telehealth into some smaller communities at locations where people can come in and access telehealth in an environment that develops trust and familiarity with the technology,” says Larsen. “To do that, we’re going to need a ‘human element’, facilitators such as digital navigators to plug community telehealth into the ecosystem. A lot of rural communities have trust issues with government programs.”
Using surplus office space to create customer service centers
There are plenty of large incumbents’ mobile device showrooms in communities. But these employees tend to be sales-oriented with scripted content. Vistabeam happens to have surplus office space they are using to create true customer service centers.
“We figured out how to train people to be digital navigators, we get customers comfortable with telehealth and our staff connects people with complementary social services and other resources,” says Larsen. For the last few months, Vistabeam has been promoting exclusively the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program of free Internet access and subsidized computing devices. There’s a complex enrollment process residents have to complete that’s confusing for many, so Vistabeam trained staff to walk people through the process, get them qualified, and connected.
As for the potential of telehealth deployment to the home, Larsen believes the technology represents a tremendous amount of potential utility and value for both rural and urban broadband deployments. Though broadband is currently underutilized for telehealth, in large part because communities are just beginning to plan for it, the pandemic revealed a burning need for strong video streaming capacities to bridge doctors and patients.
“What’s missing is a telehealth killer app or device,” says Larsen. “I believe preventive healthcare will be the answer – technology that detects or prevents things from happening before they become big problems. This app could be a way to check vital statistics and watch for health or illness markers. Maybe we’ll see a device connected to the Internet that accesses research data to help you and your health professional with health planning.”
Just about everybody gets sick or hurt, or they are responsible for others when those loved ones aren’t doing well. Telehealth and its many iterations are designed for people to use when they’re sick or hurt or for preventative healthcare. The universality of telehealth and its symbiotic relationship with broadband technologies give communities great potential for expanding digital inclusion. Together with the bezillion grant dollars coming out the ying yang, what we’re seeing is the perfect digital storm.
Craig Settles conducts needs analyses, planning, and grant assessments with community stakeholders who want broadband networks and telehealth to improve economic development, healthcare, education and local government. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to email@example.com. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
Providers Call for More FCC Telehealth Funding as Demand Grows
‘I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.’
WASHINGTON, July 26, 2022 – Health care providers in parts of America say they are struggling to deliver telehealth due to a lack of broadband connectivity in underserved communities, and recommended there be more funding from the Federal Communications Commission.
While the FCC has a $200-million COVID-19 Telehealth program, which emerged from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, some providers say more money is needed as demand for telehealth services increases.
“The need for broadband connectivity in underserved communities exceeds current availability,” said Jennifer Stoll from the Oregon Community Health Information Network.
The OCHIN was one of the largest recipients of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot program in 2009. Stoll advocated for the need for more funding with the non-profit SHLB Coalition during the event last week. Panelists didn’t specify how much more funding is needed.
Stoll noted that moving forward, states need sustainable funding in this sector. “I am hoping Congress will be mindful of telehealth,” said Stoll.
“The need for telehealth and other virtual modalities will continue to grow in rural and underserved communities,” she added.
Brian Scarpelli, senior global policy counsel at ACT, the App Association, echoed the call for FCC funding from the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes basic telecommunications services to rural areas and low-income Americans. “I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.”
Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare Has Benefits, But Also Challenges That Must Be Rectified: Experts
The technology needs to be examined to ensure it doesn’t create inequities in healthcare, panel hears.
WASHINGTON, July 11, 2022 – While the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare has been lauded by some, experts said at an Atlantic event late last month they are concerned that inaccurate data can also hamper progress in the field.
Artificial intelligence has been used widely across the medical field to analyze relationships between medical providers and patients to improve equality of care, including providing patient risk identification, diagnostics, drug discovery and development, transcribing medical documents, and remotely treating patients.
Carol Horowitz, founder of the Mt. Sinai Institute of Health and Equity Research, argued that while AI plays a substantial role in diagnosing health problems at earlier stages, diagnosing patients more quickly, providing second opinions in diagnoses, enhancing scheduling abilities, stimulating hospital workflow, and finding drug availability for a patient as in dermatology, therapeutics, or population health, it’s not a golden ticket.
She reasoned that it “can reflect and really exaggerate inequities in our system,” negatively affecting healthcare equity among patients.
She stated that AI tools have led to inaccurate measurements in data that have proved harmful to individuals’ health. Horowitz shared the example of faulty AI technology during March 2020 meant to allow individuals to self-monitor their own oxygen levels as a precautionary method to the COVID-19 pandemic but led to inaccurate pulse readings for those with darker skin, and inaccurate data gathering, resulting in delayed treatment for many in need.
Michael Crawford, associate dean for strategy of outreach and innovation at Howard University, added that if these certain mismeasurements and flaws in the technology are not addressed, “AI could increase disparities in health care.”
Alondra Nelson, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said when it comes to assessing AI technology innovation for the future, there are both cost and benefits, but we must find “where can we move forward in ways that don’t harm human society but that maximize human benefits.”
As we grapple with how to implement this technology, “we must do science and technology policy that always has equity at the center” for future innovation, said Nelson.
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Broadband Breakfast Research Partner
Senators Join CFTB’s Chairman in Calling for Crypto Regulation in Light of FTX Implosion
FCC December Agenda, Biden to Visit TSMC plant, Weak Economy Presents Cyber Problem
Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah to Receive Nearly $1 Billion in American Rescue Plan Funds
States Face Roadblocks in Challenge Processes, FCC Tries to Facilitate
U.S. Must Lead on International Tech Standards to Counter Chinese Influence: Raimondo
Vermont Challenges FCC Fabric, BTX Gets President, Starlink Performance Dip
Interference Concerns with FCC Raised Over Wi-Fi in 6 GigaHertz Band
Broadband Breakfast on November 30, 2022 – The 12 Days of Broadband
Florida, Mississippi, S.D. and Utah Awarded Broadband Planning Grants
Small ISPs Face Economic, Incumbent Bundling Headwinds: CoBank Economist
BAI Buys 1,100 Fiber Miles of Network, Workforce Training Partnership, New Executive at US Cellular
Perfect Timing to Attend Digital Infrastructure Investment in Washington on Nov. 17
Carr Advocates Release of More Spectrum as Deadline to Extend FCC Auction Authority Looms
Report Urges States, Local Governments Follow Federal Rules on Prohibited Equipment Purchases
Midterm Control of Congress Remains Uncertain, But States Got Answers to Broadband Votes
FCC Releases National Broadband Map Amid Controversy
Federal Communications Commission Mandates Broadband ‘Nutrition’ Labels
Senators Push Bill to Make Broadband Grants Non-Taxable By Year-End
Anniversary of Infrastructure Act, Gigi Sohn Has a Real Shot at FCC, West Haven Approves Utopia
Concerns About Tribal Funding from NTCA, Ed Markey and Twitter Verification, T-Mobile 5G
Broadband Breakfast on November 30, 2022 – The 12 Days of Broadband
Small ISPs Face Economic, Incumbent Bundling Headwinds: CoBank Economist
Venture Capital, Private Equity and Institutional Investors on Digital Infrastructure Investment
Financing Mechanisms for Community Broadband, Panel 3 at Digital Infrastructure Investment
Right Track or Wrong Track on Mapping? Panel 2 at Digital Infrastructure Investment
What’s the State of the IIJA? Panel 1 at Digital Infrastructure Investment
Broadband Breakfast on December 28, 2022 – New Year Recap: Biggest Stories in Broadband
Broadband Breakfast on December 21, 2022, – Robotics, Telehealth and Future Health
Broadband Breakfast on December 14, 2022 – In the Trenches: Better Broadband for Multi-Dwelling Units
Keynote Address and Q&A at Digital Infrastructure Investment
Cloud4 weeks ago
Hyperscalers are the New Disrupters in Cloud Computing and Digital Infrastructure
Cybersecurity3 weeks ago
Internet of Things Devices May Provide a Weak Point for Cybersecurity, Says CableLabs
Broadband Roundup4 weeks ago
6 GHz Wi-Fi Coordination Systems, Tribal Data Partnership, Free Speech on Twitter
Artificial Intelligence4 weeks ago
AI Should Compliment and Not Replace Humans, Says Stanford Expert
Infrastructure4 weeks ago
New Broadband Workers Can Be Enticed By High Wages, Career Advancement: Experts
Innovation4 weeks ago
Semiconductor Export Restrictions Could Harm U.S. Companies, Industry Says
Congress4 weeks ago
Congress Working to Enact Permitting Reforms for Broadband
Fiber3 weeks ago
Fiber Providers Need to Go Beyond Speed for Differentiation, Consultant Says