Urgent Rural Telehealth Expansion Depends on Robust Broadband Access, Service Provider Tells Senate Hearing
Washington, DC (Mar. 14, 2017) – Extensive, robust, high-speed broadband infrastructure expansion, funded by $4.5 billion in Federal Communications Commission (FCC) support, is essential for urgent rural telehealth accessibility for 56 million rural Americans, telehealth service provider CEO Tim Koxlien said in a statement submitted to the Senate Commerce Committee’s March 8th hearing on FCC oversight.
“The hearing made it clear that there is widespread congressional support for the efficacy and efficiency of rural telehealth service,” said Koxlien, CEO of TeleQuality Communications, Inc. based in San Antonio, TX, a major telehealth and telecommunications service provider.
“Digital infrastructure is as important as physical infrastructure in connecting rural America to the 21st century economy, workforce and healthcare markets,” he said. “Populous urban areas with ubiquitous high-quality, low-cost connectivity, also have the greatest access to numerous healthcare options, physicians, and specialists.
“Conversely, the folks who most need and can best benefit from telehealth programs are the ones with little-to-no affordable, reliable connectivity sufficient to utilize such services,” Koxlien said.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s commitment, in his testimony, to adopt a “lighter touch” regulatory approach was endorsed by Koxlien.
“Excessive regulations have had a disproportionately high impact on smaller and more rural-focused telecom providers, which trickles down to everyone in those communities,” he said.
Koxlien said he was “intrigued” by Chairman Pai’s Broadband Deployment Model Code that would provide simplified best practices for states and localities interested in encouraging deployment of broadband.
He cautioned the FCC against leveraging existing administrative infrastructure and expertise in a way that would exclude small and medium-size service providers. “While such providers may not have the size and scale to compete with incumbent local exchange carriers, and meet some of the program requirements for participation in certain funds, such providers are often more specialized in the areas they serve.”
Koxlien said specialization and deeper market knowledge often make them “better suited to meet the needs of the very communities the funds were originally developed to support.” He said less restriction in certain instances would open the market to healthy competition. “That would be a win for consumers,” Koxlien concluded.
“We are excited by Chairman Pai’s plan to help close the digital divide by “more wisely applying” Universal Service Funds collected from telecom consumers on their phone bills, revisiting regulations that deter private-sector investment, applying deployment-friendly best practices, and thereby reducing the cost of deployment.”