Obama order bolsters healthcare broadband expansion efforts

Broadband infrastructure deployment was given a shot in the arm this week when President Obama signed an executive order making it easier for carriers to build networks on federal lands--including highways and tribal lands--according to an article in Health Data Management.

The move holds promise for rural providers, many of whom are participating in a nonprofit partnership effort known as US Ignite, which aims to improve broadband efforts nationally over the next five years, according to a fact sheet.

"While broadband infrastructure has been deployed in a vast majority of communities across the country, today too many areas still lack adequate access to this crucial resource," the order states. "For these areas, decisions on access to Federal property and rights of way can be essential to the deployment of both wired and wireless broadband infrastructure."

One commitment related to the US Ignite effort involves the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which just last week announced that it will allocate $14 million in new rural grants to 29 states for telehealth and distance-learning initiatives. Telehealth programs will get roughly $8.3 million of that money.

Another US Ignite effort highlighted in the fact sheet includes an expansion of the Southeast Minnesota Beacon Community through a regional telemedicine network. The Mayo Clinic, the lead grantee for the community, has been named a new partner in the US Ignite initiative, and will help spur the effort.

Broadband expansion efforts have been a soup du jour of sorts in healthcare of late. Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission approved a channel to accommodate wearable electronic devices that will free patients now tethered to hospital beds. New rules allow providers to use the set aside portion of wireless spectrum--40 MHz--for medical body area networks.

To learn more:
- here's the Health Data Management article
- check out the executive order
- read the associated fact sheet