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AppRising delivers insight into new broadband applications, exploring their impact on networks and their implications for public policy.

AppRising is written by Geoff Daily, who covers broadband applications and the business of online video. Based in Washington, DC, Geoff regularly advises applications developers, network operators, community leaders, and public officials on how to maximize adoption and use of the Internet.

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November 19, 2007 3:02 PM

Hospitals Get $400 Million for Broadband

Last week FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced a three year $400 million expansion of a program to get broadband to hospitals.

On the surface, this is fantastic news that could help bolster healthcare in a number of communities, but I wonder also if it's a missed opportunity of sorts.

For one, this program seems only aimed at putting the broadband networks in place, not doing anything to encourage their use. It adheres to the if-we-build-it-they-will-come mentality.

This may work over the long run, but why aren't we including incentives to put programs in place that actually use the broadband alongside deploying the networks?

The most I've read along these lines are that by having broadband hospitals will be better equipped to pursue telehealth initiatives.

Secondly, I haven't seen much scrutiny being placed on how the networks should and could be built. i think it's time we start thinking strategically about any effort to deploy fiber so that we can maximize our efficiency in reaching the goal of a fully fibered fully realized Internet.

What I mean by this is: as we deploy fiber to hospitals, we should be thinking about engineering that network in such a way so that it could be used for other purposes, like for the local utility or public safety organizations. Trying to get other entities on board should not slow down the deployment of fiber but it could shape decisions that are made that may prove beneficial down the road.

And finally, I think it's important to note that while $400 million is a big number, if you spread it out over the three years and all fifty states, you're left with less than $3 million a year, which can certainly do a lot of good but it likely isn't enough to get everyone online.

All this being said, I don't want to disparage this effort as it highlights the FCC's commitment to healthcare, the federal government's growing awareness of the importance of broadband, and possibly one of the best uses of USF money to date.


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