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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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April 7, 2008 9:51 AM

First Thoughts from Lafayette: The Importance of Broadband in Rural Areas

After a thankfully uneventful trip to Lafayette, LA on Saturday I went out on the town with some local friends to enjoy the nightlife of this great city.

While listening to some terrific bluesy rock at a quintessentially Cajun outdoor bar called the Blue Moon Guesthouse, which ingeniously also serves as the city's only hostel, I had the opportunity to meet and chat with the locals.

One conversation in particular piqued my interest. It was with a gentleman who's in the midst of finishing up his MBA in healthcare administration. His current job has him helping run a healthcare facility in Lafayette that cares for people who can't stay in the hospital any longer but still need some level of managed care.

I could sense his passion for what he did, and found it exciting when we began talking telemedicine as he had obviously been reading about and researching the topic, though I was slightly disappointed when he referred to it as still a thing of the future, not because telemedicine has no merit but because at least in his experiences with healthcare, it's an industry that doesn't always embrace new technological opportunities as readily as some.

But as we continued to talk, we came upon another string of thought. He began discussing the rapidly oncoming healthcare crunch, where the number of medical professionals we're graduating as a country is being far outstripped by the growing number of Baby Boomers whose healthcare needs are increasing as they age.

He lamented what he sees as an inevitable shortage of trained medical professionals, especially as its impact will undoubtedly be felt first in rural areas, a reality made even more stark in a largely rural state like Louisiana.

He then admitted that the only answer to this problem, other than a mass exodus from rural to urban areas, is the use of telemedicine technologies. Whether it's being able to consult a doctor from your home or a regional health facility being able to tap expertise from elsewhere to read the results of radiological exams, there's simply no other way rural areas will be able to maintain a high level of access to healthcare providers without the use of telemedicine.

But that then gets back to one of the biggest disconnects in broadband: on the one hand, some say rural areas are too expensive to reach or that the people who live there don't really want broadband; on the other, you can argue that no communities need and could benefit more from the use of broadband than those in rural areas.

In talking with him, my resolve has been steeled that solving the rural broadband dilemma must be a key part to any national broadband strategy if we are to have any hope of supporting and maintaining our rural areas. It's my belief that much of the strength of America can be found in rural areas, so I will not accept the proposition that rural communities should be left to wither on the sidelines of the broadband revolution.

That's all from me for now. I'm off to enjoy what I'm sure will be another tremendous day in Lafayette. You can look forward to more installments of my adventures here all throughout the rest of this week.

And for anyone reading who's anywhere near Lafayette, LA, I encourage you to come on over to the Cajundome to catch the region's leading technology show: TechSouth. I'm going to be presenting on the possibilities of broadband applications both Tuesday and Wednesday morning and Tuesday evening I'm going to have the great pleasure of addressing the City-Parish Council about why I find fiber exciting. So if you're in the area, come stop on by!


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