Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Plan Submitted to Congress

FCC submitted the Plan titled “Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan” to Congress. Today, nearly 100 million Americans lack broadband in their home and 14 million Americans do not have access to broadband even if they want it. Only 42 percent of people with disabilities use broadband at home while as few as 5 percent of people living on Tribal lands have access.

About half of the Plan’s recommendations are addressed to the FCC, while the rest of the recommendations are for Congress, the Executive Branch, and state and local governments to work with private and nonprofit sections.

The Plan defines e-care as the electronic exchange of information involving data, images, and videos to aid in the practice of medicine and advanced analytics. E-care encompasses technologies to enable video consultations, remote monitoring, and image transmission (store-and-forward) over fixed or mobile networks. Telehealth often used as a synonym for e-care but telehealth includes non-clinical practices that can involve medical education and nursing call centers.

The FCC plan specifically addresses healthcare with the goal to:

• Ensure that all healthcare providers have access to affordable broadband by revamping the Rural Health Care Program, and make better use of the $400 million funded per year

• Upgrade the Indian Health Services broadband network to meet their health IT needs. The plan recommends spending $29 million per year to upgrade their network of providers

• Create economic incentives for broader health IT adoption and innovation. Improving broadband connectivity is necessary but does not close the health IT gap on its own. Providers need reimbursement for health IT plus other economic incentives. The Plan applauds investments that Congress and HHS are making to increase the adoption of EHRs and supports a similar approach for e-care technologies

• Unlock the power of health care data and advanced analytics while protecting privacy. The Plan supports the next generation of interoperability and data access suggesting ongoing actions by the federal government

• Modernize rules to increase access to e-care. The Plan recommends bolstering adoption of e-care technologies by revising licensing, privileging, and credentialing standards

By 2020, the Plan’s call for action over the next decade includes the following goals:

• Connect 100 million household to affordable 100-megabits-per-second service
• Enable schools, hospitals, and military installations to have ultra-high-speed broadband of at least 1 gigabit per second
• Make 500 megahertz of spectrum available for licensed and unlicensed use
• Move the U.S. adoption rates from 65 percent to more than 90 percent
• Transition existing Universal Service Fund support from analog technologies to tomorrow’s digital infrastructure
• Ensure greater transparency, remove barriers to entry, and conduct market-based analysis containing quality data with information on price, speed, and availability
• Provide every first responder with access to a nationwide, wireless interoperable public safety network

To download the Plan, go to