Thursday, October 13, 2011

Community networks should be eligible for CAF subsidies

U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is about to release details of its Connect America Fund (CAF) that will reform the current Universal Service Fund that subsidizes switched voice service to instead subsidize Internet connectivity in high cost areas.

The FCC faces a significant challenge in how it defines those areas eligible for CAF subsidies given that wireline Internet access is highly granular. Incumbent investor-owned cable and telephone companies parse their service areas very tightly when it comes to determining what is and what isn't a high cost area for providing Internet service. A given home or business may have access while another just down the road or street is deemed too costly to serve and is relegated to dialup or satellite. These premises can't be described as situated in remote, isolated areas since they are almost on top of areas that have wireline Internet access.

Targeting CAF subsidies to the most remote regions of the United States won't help these folks. They comprise many of the 24 million Americans that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski noted in a February 7, 2011 speech "couldn’t get broadband today even if they wanted it. The infrastructure simply isn’t there." It's there for their neighbors -- but not for them.

Many communities have responded to this widespread problem by building their own fiber to the premises networks to fill in the gaps. These networks must necessarily overlap the footprints of the incumbent's incomplete, Swiss cheese infrastructures since telecommunications infrastructure like other utilities must cover sufficiently large geographical areas in order to be economically viable. The FCC should designate these community networks as eligible for CAF subsidies if they meet certain requirements such as providing voice and 911 emergency service at standards that meet or exceed those placed on existing wireline providers.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Telehealth Market To Hit $6.28 Billion By 2020

The global telehealth market is headed for explosive growth over the next decade, according to a new report from InMedica, a division of IMS Research. The main reasons are increasing disease prevalence, an aging population, and governmental pressure to hold down healthcare costs.

"Many public healthcare systems now have targets to reduce both the number of hospital visits and the length of stay in hospital," said Diane Wilkinson, research manager at InMedica, in a press release. "This has led to a growing trend for healthcare to be managed outside the traditional hospital environment, and as a result, there is a growing trend for patients to be monitored in their home environment using telehealth technologies once their treatment is complete.

It's not only the aging population but also its massive numbers as the Baby Boom generation enters maturity. As one of the sources quoted in this article points out, there aren't enough doctors and institutions to care for them nor sufficient funds to pay for that care. Home-based care however will require an extensive revamp of our outdated and incomplete telecommunications infrastructure so that every home is served by big fiber optic pipe with the capacity to carry large amounts of data necessary to support remote diagnosis and monitoring.
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