All too often, when we think of rural broadband issues it's an immediate look at consumers in their homes with no connectivity. How do they online shop? How do they communicate with the outside world? How do they watch Netflix?
The reality is that there's more at stake in rural broadband than those individuals in their homes - a lot more. Today's technology is all about access to information: immediate, self-serving, findable. People want to get what they need right away. Without it, you often hear people discusing how we would still be stuck in the dark ages. What comes with a lack of information, especially in these rural areas, is what some refer to as a connectivity "gap."
One of the major areas this gap exists is in rural health care. As noted in a recent Health Affairs blog, with all the advances in modern medicine, think about what being connected can provide to patients: electronic health records, video consultations, patient monitoring, and guest or family Wi-Fi as a means of communication. In rural areas, due to a lack of connectivity these options don't exist and thus peoples access to advanced health care doesn't exist.
In 1996, the Rural Health Care Program was established and as part of it funds to support broadband. Flash foward to today and while the programs cap is $400M a year, in 2013 just $178M was spent.
At RESOLUTE Partners, we've dealt with rural and hospitals. Specifically, engineering, installing and maintaining complex wireless solutions to help close this connectivity gap. We see this as a continuing saga of challenges to align broadband applications (in this case health care) with rapidly evolving technology, bandwidth demand and lack of funding. As we have said, wireless can be a major factor in getting more bang for the broadband buck.