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Monthly Archives

December 2021

Lawmakers advance plan to boost broadband internet expansion

By News

Source: The State News

The state House voted unanimously Wednesday to set up a governmental body to develop a statewide plan for broadband internet funding and expansion into unserved and underserved areas of Pennsylvania. The bill, which was sent to the Senate, would set up the independent Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority. It would act as a central point to coordinate grant money in underserved areas. Pennsylvania is in line for at least $100 million in federal money to expand broadband in the state. The federal infrastructure bill also allocated about $37 billion nationally to be doled out based on financial need, including monthly subsidies for the cost of connectivity. The authority that would be set up under the House-passed bill would consist of an 11-member board and have a six-year lifespan, unless extended. Members would be chosen by the governor and legislative leaders. The bill sets minimum broadband speeds to match federal standards.

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Telehealth and community broadband, in sickness and in health

By News

Source:  Healthcare IT News

By Craig Settles

Delivering virtual care via community broadband offers big financial and quality-of-life benefits, says our contributing writer, opening avenues to both digital equity and health equity.

Telehealth and community broadband are symbiotic technologies.

Much more than mere video chats, telehealth uses intranets and the internet networks to observe, diagnose, initiate or otherwise medically intervene, administer, monitor, record, and/or report on the continuum of care people receive when ill, injured or wanting to stay well. We can save so much money and time that’s going into healthcare if we take full advantage of the telehealth and telemedicine tools. Public health, in particular, can leverage telehealth to great advantage.

Community broadband, meanwhile, refers to networks owned by towns, cities and counties, local telephone and electrical co-ops, wireless internet service providers (WISPs) and other local ISPs, and public-private partnerships often initiated by municipalities or counties.

But big companies often have high prices, suboptimal service and weak infrastructure, so communities nationwide are building their own. These networks profit the people they serve.

Telehealth united with community broadband has huge financial and quality-of-life benefits. These technologies also open avenues to digital equity and health equity among underserved communities in towns, cities and counties.

Don’t forget, though, that it’s quite difficult to have telehealth without broadband.

Strategically speaking

Let’s break down telehealth into three categories and consider as an example public libraries that decide to offer telehealth in some of their branches.

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US Reps Introduce Bill to Ensure Permanent Access to Telehealth

By News

Source:  mHealth Intelligence

By Victoria Bailey

The Telehealth Extension Act aims to solidify policies that will preserve permanent access to telehealth after the public health emergency ends.

– Members of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee have introduced a bipartisan bill that seeks to ensure permanent access to telehealth services.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), who is the chair of the subcommittee, and subcommittee members Devin Nunes (R-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), and David Schweikert (R-AZ) are sponsoring the Telehealth Extension Act.

The bill has been endorsed by several notable telehealth advocates including the National Rural Health Association, the eHealth Initiative, the American Nurses Association, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

The legislation aims to lift geographic and site restrictions to allow Medicare beneficiaries to access telehealth no matter where they live. Certain policies limit telehealth access to patients living in rural areas and providers practicing in specific clinics. Waivers helped lift these restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are set to expire when the public health emergency ends.

Permanently eliminating these restrictions would make it easier for all Americans to access telehealth services regardless of their location, according to a press release issued by Doggett’s office.

The bill also incorporates recommendations from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and would extend select COVID-19 emergency telehealth waivers for two years.

The waivers permit Medicare coverage for telehealth services provided by specialty providers including speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists.

Further, the temporary extension would allow critical access hospitals to keep providing outpatient behavioral therapy via telehealth and would ensure proper reimbursement for audio-only telehealth services.

“Expanded access to telehealth, permitted by emergency waivers, has transformed healthcare delivery—helping patients connect easily and safely with their physicians in a timely manner. As the pandemic enters an unpredictable new stage and emergency waives may expire, patients and providers should not face a cliff of uncertainty,” Doggett said in the press release.

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Clarendon County Seniors Complete Digital Literacy Training

By News

By Kathy Rhoad, Director of Public Relations & Program Development, Palmetto Care Connections

BAMBERG, SC—Senior citizens aged 60 years and up from Clarendon County recently completed a three-session digital literacy learning program conducted by Palmetto Care Connections (PCC), a state-wide, non-profit telehealth organization.

The program was part of a pilot program funded by the Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the S.C. Department on Aging to help 100 seniors who live in rural communities with digital literacy training, a free digital tablet and free cellular service for 12 months.

Senior citizens completed hands-on training using a digital tablet and learned skills such as how to send and receive photos and emails, connect with family and friends using video, search the internet for health information, play mind-stimulating games and connect with their doctor for virtual telehealth appointments. PCC will provide ongoing technical support for the seniors who complete the program.

“COVID-19 has created an explosion in telehealth services and uncovered a tremendous need for internet access and digital literacy in rural areas,” said PCC Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting. “As PCC surveyed rural health care providers, we confirmed that many of the seniors they serve have difficulty using and understanding technology, and many do not have internet access at home. The goal is to connect seniors not only to telehealth, but also to a variety of quality-of-life resources, to combat the social isolation that many seniors have faced during the pandemic.”

“For more than 40 years, Rural LISC has proudly worked to connect communities with resources and access to opportunities that everyone deserves,” said Rural LISC Program Officer Christa Vinson. “PCC’s Digital Inclusion pilot program supports the mission of Rural LISC by providing the physical equipment and technical assistance that this segment of the population needs in order to access services and benefit from an increasingly technical society.”

“The South Carolina Department on Aging works with a network of regional and local organizations to develop and manage services that help seniors remain independent in their homes and in their communities. SCDOA is pleased to be a part of the PCC Digital Inclusion pilot program focusing on seniors in rural areas in five South Carolina counties,” said Kay Hightower, SCDOA Senior Consultant, Outreach and Partnership Building.

“It is our hope that this pilot program will be a model for one approach to closing the digital divide in South Carolina,” said Kathy Schwarting, CEO of Palmetto Care Connections (PCC). “While PCC’s focus has traditionally been on serving rural health care providers with telehealth, broadband and technology resources, we have learned that patients need help in connecting to their health care providers. Residents of rural areas not only need internet access, they need access that is affordable and they need a device and knowledge to connect to resources for a better quality of life.”

Kathleen Gibson of K & H Resource Center in Summerton assisted with coordinating the Clarendon County class. “As a retired educator of 40 years, when the opportunity came to have this course, we jumped on it. The fact that these seniors can navigate the internet, email, selfies and zoom is amazing. These three classes don’t make them experts, but we hope to help maintain their skills and support them with the help of PCC. During COVID, this tablet can connect them to their community and beyond. It’s a matter of survival for a lot of them. I give this program an A++.”

Established in 2010, PCC is a non-profit organization that provides technology, broadband, and telehealth support services to health care providers in rural and underserved areas in S.C. PCC co-chairs the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance, along with the Medical University of South Carolina, serving as an advocate for rural providers and partnering with organizations to improve health care access and delivery for all South Carolinians. The National Cooperative of Health Network Association named Palmetto Care Connections as the 2021 Outstanding Health Network of the Year. PCC CEO Kathy Schwarting recently received South Carolina’s 2021 Community Star award presented by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.

Tri-County Electric bringing broadband service to Lower Richland neighborhoods

By News

Source:  WACH Fox 57

by Marcus Flowers


Tri-County Electric Cooperative is investing $12 million to expand broadband service in lower Richland, bringing high-speed internet to many neighborhoods that previously never had access.

“We are excited to see Tri-County investing in Richland County to provide more residents with access to broadband internet,” said County Council Chair Paul Livingston. “The COVID-19 pandemic taught us the importance of having broadband connectivity, and this project will help our community stay better connected.”

On Tuesday, December 7, Richland County City Council approved a fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement with Tri-County Electric that will provide a more favorable property tax rate over a 30-year period.

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The Senate confirms Jessica Rosenworcel as the first female FCC chair

By News

Source: Androidcentral

By: Derrek Lee

She is the first female FCC lead in the history of the Commission.

What you need to know

  • Jessica Rosenworcel has been confirmed as the new FCC lead.
  • Rosenworcel has sat as acting chair since Ajit Pai’s departure in 2020.
  • Gigi Sohn was nominated to fill the remaining FCC seat, but a vote has yet to occur.The Federal Communications Commission celebrates a historic first as the U.S. Senate voted 68-31 to confirm Jessica Rosenworcel as the new chair. This makes Rosenworcel the first female to ever lead the Commission.She was first appointed acting FCC chair following Ajit Pai’s exit. She is known for her stance advocating for net neutrality and has already led the Commission in adopting new programs to help more Americans gain affordable access to broadband internet.”People across the country count on the FCC to support the connections they need for work, learning, healthcare, and access to the information we require to make decisions about our lives, our communities, and our country,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Administration, my colleagues on the Commission and FCC staff, members of Congress, and the public to make the promise of modern communications a reality for everyone, everywhere.”

    Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr extended his congratulations, saying that he has enjoyed working with Rosenworcel over the last 12 months and looks forwards to continuing their work together.

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American Hospital Association, Johns Hopkins and others launch pro-telehealth campaign

By News

Source:  Healthcare IT News

By Kat Jercich

Darlington County Council approves millions to expand broadband

By News

Source:  WBTW News 13



MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Darlington County Council on Monday approved a contract with Spectrum Southeast to provide broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved homes throughout the county.

At least 1,139 homes have been identified to fit into those categories.

Approximately $1.5 million in funding will be provided by the county through the American Rescue Plan Act with up to an additional $2.7 million for other homes identified during the project. The total cost of the project is estimated at about $4.8 million. The remaining estimated $3.3 million will be funded by Spectrum Southeast.

If the number of residential customers in Darlington County is more or less than the estimated 1,139, the cost will be adjusted respectively by $1,355 per address.

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