More Spectrum, Better Health

[imgbelt img=morganprofile1.jpg]Rural communities are becoming more dependent on broadband access for getting the best in health care. That’s why the FCC needs to open up new spectrum now.


Expectant and new mothers can receive tips on prenatal care, baby health and parenting over text message.

Emergency medical responders can wirelessly receive a patient’s health history or transmit vital statistics and test results to emergency room personnel from the road.

A bevy of new medical devices that communicate wirelessly with health professionals are starting to have an impact.  A patient at risk for congenital heart failure can step on a scale each morning, knowing that any drastic increases in weight, which would signal a problem, will be communicated immediately to a clinic for evaluation. 

Thousands of people use their smartphones or tablets to access the web each day in search of information about a recent diagnosis or to socialize with others facing the same medical challenges.  Many more turn to mobile applications and the web to support diets and exercise programs.

All of these medical breakthroughs depend on one thing – a robust wireless broadband network that enables the use of sophisticated eHealth applications. This would give rural high-speed wireless users the same access to health care as their urban counterparts.

Unfortunately, wireless coverage is insufficient in many areas, and with explosive growth in demand, the problem isn’t going to going to go away without impressive investment in infrastructure. This investment will take the combined goodwill of both government regulators and private industry.

Right now, the ball is in the court of the Federal Communications Commission, which was recently instructed by Congress to auction additional spectrum.  It can take years from auction to actually put the new spectrum to work, so it is important that the FCC move quickly to get this vital resource into the pipeline.

Immediately, the agency should get to work on Congress’ provision to free up 65mhz of spectrum within the next three years.

Wireless can revolutionize rural health. Imagine the impact that these improvements can have in the care and well being of patients from rural communities who lack easy access to a doctor or hospital.  

But rural American will only benefit from these innovations if wireless providers are given the spectrum they need to provide quality, far-reaching service. We can’t sit back quietly just waiting for change. The FCC needs to work to bring rural America the quality wireless service it needs and deserves.

Alan Morgan serves as Chief Executive Officer for the National Rural Health Association, a nonprofit membership organization with a mission to provide leadership on rural health issues.