Telehealth Changes Will Increase Rural Broadband Demand

From the Daily Yonder

New federal policies will make it easier for Americans to use telehealth. Rural communities should be looking for ways to leverage the new demand into better internet connections at home.

Several policy changes from Washington, D.C., should accelerate urban and rural telehealth deployments. On November 1 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the body that manages these two healthcare programs, finalized new rules that include payment reimbursements for telehealth.

These changes are good news for communities that want broadband to help expand access to healthcare. They will also be welcomed who hope that expanded use of telehealth will increase the number of broadband subscribers. Currently, telehealth service isn’t covered by Medicare and Medicaid in many rural homes, and they don’t reimburse telehealth at all in urban areas.

One of the major telehealth benefits is that it enables people to stay at work or home and have electronic doctor “house calls.” Medicaid and Medicare, as a guard against fraud, required patients to get telehealth treatments at a healthcare provider’s facility. Many private-sector insurers take their cues from Medicaid and Medicare as to what healthcare services they reimburse. Altogether, this has stifled telehealth adoption.

Eric Wicklund, editor of mHealth Intelligence, says that “the CMS changes open the door for more telehealth and remote patient monitoring programs. In turn, this pressures community broadband providers to make sure healthcare providers have the resources to deliver these services.” The FCC has publicly pledged to boost broadband access in rural areas, and hopefully the CMS’ actions will intensify the FCC’s commitment

 

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FCC Wins Battle In Small Cell Litigation?

— The FCC notched a victory Thursday in the court fight over its order pre-empting city and state laws on fees and timelines for 5G equipment installation. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request from several cities, including Seattle and California’s San Jose and Huntington Beach, to halt implementation of the order while the litigation is pending. The court sided with the FCC, which opposed the request, finding that the cities failed to show that there would be “irreparable harm” if the order takes effect in part as planned Jan. 14. Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr, who spearheaded the order, cheered the ruling as “more good news for U.S. leadership on 5G.”

— Win some, lose some: The 10th Circuit, based in Denver, also on Thursday granted a request from the cities to transfer the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California. The FCC, Verizon, Sprint and industry trade groups had opposed the transfer.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Well, with the transfer to the 9th Circus it will not be long before we are reading about a reversal of this decision. The 9th Circus is the most liberal anti-capitalism court in the Nation. I would give the Cities a win and the 5G Providers a loss. This issue will most likely end up at the Supreme Court.

Collins Introduces FCC Subsidy Bill

— Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) is today introducing his Connect America Fund Accountability Act , which will require recipients of the FCC’s CAF broadband subsidies to provide additional information about their internet speed and latency testing. “This legislation institutes specific tools to hold providers accountable for accurate reporting while ensuring households and businesses throughout our rural communities have access to the broadband services required to compete in the 21st-century economy,” Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

— And keep an eye out — later this month, Collins plans to reintroduce his Gigabit Opportunity Act, which would create tax incentives for broadband investment in low-income areas, an aide tells MT.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech [Emphsis Added]

FCC: Pai’s Future

— FCC Chairman Ajit Pai didn’t quite rule out an eventual run for office and said he hopes to find common ground with lawmakers in the new Congress in an interview with Margaret for C-SPAN’S The Communicators. He said his 2019 agenda will focus on rural broadband, telemedicine, 5G, public safety communications and robocalls.

— On Mobility Fund : Pai wouldn’t say the consequences carriers could face as a result of the investigation into whether one or more carriers overstated their wireless coverage for maps that will determine eligibility for subsidies under the $4.5 billion Mobility Fund program. He said the agency is committed to getting accurate data first. “Our goal is to make sure that we get the data right that will allow us to make an informed decision about where that funding should go.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech [Emphasis Added]

FCC Map Probe Draws Hill Praise

— Lawmakers are voicing support for the FCC’s decision to investigate whether major carriers overstated their wireless coverage. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, said Monday she is “pleased” the agency is taking “additional steps necessary to address their flawed maps.” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), another Commerce member, said it’s “absolutely critical that the Commission remains focused on ensuring that our limited universal service funds are effectively and accurately targeted to areas that lack unsubsidized 4G LTE service.”

— The background: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced on Friday that a preliminary review “suggested significant violations” of the agency’s rules regarding the maps, as Margaret reported for Pro . “We must ensure that the data is accurate before we can proceed,” Pai said. Mobility Fund Phase II will provide up to $4.53 billion in support for rural wireless broadband expansion across the country over the next 10 years.

Actions speak louder than words, to repeat an often used phrase.  Fixing the mapping problem is not going to be easy. The biggest gaps in the maps are in rural areas, outside the urban that now have broadband.  How to survey these gaps is a real challenge.

RCRC: December Broadband Update

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), who is set to be Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee in the 116th Congress, is standing by his proposal to require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fix its broadband mapping data. Senator Wicker announced last week he would push language in an upcoming spending bill that would require the FCC to consider the concerns of senators from rural states who argue the FCC’s mapping data misrepresents broadband coverage in rural America.

It is uncertain whether Congress will allow Senator Wicker’s language to pass, but the FCC is likely to heed the concerns of the incoming Chairman of the Committee with direct oversight of the Commission.

Microsoft President Brad Smith announced this week that Microsoft will lead a new effort to bring broadband to rural California. Smith announced in a press release that Microsoft is expanding its “Airband Initiative” into new states, including California. Through the Airband Initiative, Microsoft partners with internet service providers leveraging a mix of innovative broadband solutions, including TV white spaces, to deliver high-speed internet coverage for rural areas. Microsoft founded the program in 2017 with the goal to bring broadband to 2 million rural Americans without internet access.

Source RCRC Barbed Wire Newsletter

Broadband Mapping: Lawmakers Weigh Wicker’s Funding Gambit

— Lawmakers are broadly receptive to concerns Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is raising about the accuracy of FCC broadband maps. But most are not ready to commit to supporting Wicker’s attempt to hitch language to the year-end government funding bill to force the FCC to revisit the mapping. Congress is looking to wrap up its final fiscal 2019 funding measure by Dec. 21, and John had reported last week that Wicker is pursuing the broadband amendment.

— Although Senate appropriator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) quickly endorsed the idea, others say they are still assessing. “Senator Wicker’s going to be the chairman of the Commerce Committee next year, and if I was the FCC, I’d be listening closely, and I would hope we could send a strong message and some ability to get the mapping to where it’s reliable,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a senior appropriator and member of GOP leadership, told John on Tuesday. “It’s just so unbelievably unreliable.” Blunt said he would want to talk to Wicker about specifics but seemed potentially open to the right measure.

— Sen.Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), another appropriator, “still has concerns” about the FCC’s initial mapping aimed at determining eligibility for Mobility Fund subsidies, “but he looks forward to seeing how the challenge process may have improved the map,” a spokesman said when asked about a funding rider. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will “certainly be reviewing the challenge process with my colleagues,” he told POLITICO in a statement. “The fact of the matter is we can’t just rely on carrier submitted data, which is why I supported mapping funds for NTIA in the appropriations package last spring.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech