WASHINGTON – A group of community leaders, rural advocates and innovators have launched Connect Americans Now, an alliance that will work with the Federal Communications Commission and other policymakers to ensure that there is sufficient unlicensed low-band spectrum in every market in the country to enable broadband connectivity, which could boost access to telehealth in rural areas.
“All Americans—regardless of where they live—deserve access to high-speed Internet,” said Richard Cullen, executive director of Connect Americans Now, in a statement. “Without a broadband connection, millions of students struggle to keep up with their assignments, Americans in rural areas are unable to fully utilize telemedicine, farmers are denied the promise of precision agriculture and businesses are unable to tap into the world of online commerce.”
CAN’s founding partners include Microsoft, ACT: The App Association, and the National Rural Education Association.
The plan endorsed by CAN will accelerate the deployment and reduce the cost of high-speed Internet service for 23.4 million rural Americans by taking advantage of unused bandwidth below the 700 MHz frequency range, also known as television white spaces, made available on an unlicensed basis. Wireless signals in this range can travel over hills and through buildings and trees.
Underserved patients and rural hospitals pay up to three times more for broadband than those in urban areas, according to CAN.
“Broadband allows patients, regardless of where they live, to access specialists and benefit from advanced monitoring services that would normally require hours of travel for patients or their providers,” said Cullen.