This is a guest blog post from Lindsey C. Holmes, founder of digital marking firm LCH Business SM & Tech. You can learn more about Lindsey and her business at her website. — IIA.
You only need to look around you to see just how mobile our lives have become. Hop a train, visit a coffee shop, look around a crowded bar — you’ll likely see the same thing: People staring at a device in their hands.
We can argue whether all this screen staring is good for our social lives, but there’s no denying that the mobile revolution is changing how we live. It has also changed how we work.
As the founder of the digital marketing firm LCH Business SM & Tech, I specialize in helping clients build a comprehensive “digital footprint,” from a social media presence to creating mobile apps. I live and breathe in the mobile space, and yet I must admit that until recently I didn’t think much about what drives that space. Chances are you haven’t either.
I’m talking about spectrum, the airwaves that power every mobile thing we do. On the technical side, spectrum is all about frequencies and bands — signals carved up for various devices and uses. Your garage door opener? That relies on spectrum. Your remote control? Same thing. That WiFi connection in your house? Spectrum again.
But thinking beyond the technical aspects, spectrum is really one of our greatest natural resources. And like all natural resources, there’s only so much to go around.
Recently, Apple announced 40 billion apps had been downloaded from its App Store. Think about that. I remember when the first iPhone was released six years ago, and in that time 40 billion apps have been downloaded for Apple’s devices alone. An entire industry that didn’t exist six years ago now thrives, and a major component of that industry is the ability to download feature-rich apps to our devices through the air.
That’s what makes dealing with the “spectrum crunch,” as it’s being called, so important — not just for the big telecommunications companies and the government, but for business owners like me. Providers of mobile broadband are running out of airwaves, and unless more frequencies and bands are made available to them, demand for mobile broadband could quickly outpace capacity. And if that happens, a ripple effect will be felt throughout the mobile industry — from major app developers, to owners of boutique businesses like me.
Thankfully, the government and wireless industry have been working to address this problem recently. But as they hammer out the details and put together a plan to free up more airwaves, it’s important for them to remember their actions will have a major effect — good or bad — on businesses and entrepreneurs across the economy.
That’s why I’m paying more attention to spectrum. And it’s why you should be too.
As an advocate for the Asian American community, I aim to advance policies that benefit not only my community but all Americans. One great example is promoting the wireless revolution that is creating enormous opportunities for minority communities to flourish. As our networks grow faster and more reliable and our devices become more powerful, these opportunities will continue to expand.
Every day, more and more Asian Americans are using mobile devices to access the Internet. Recent studies show that Asian Americans, followed by other communities of color, are leading the way in smartphone adoption. While these studies do not take into account that certain Asian American subgroups likely have lower adoption rates, it is clear that no one should be denied access to this technology that improves our lives. Major barriers to Internet adoption, such as limited English proficiency, lack of digital literacy skills, and affordability need to be addressed. Yet limited deployment to low-income and rural communities also continues to negatively affect Asian Americans and other communities of color. That’s why I agree with President Obama’s goal of delivering next generation wireless broadband services to 98 percent of Americans by 2016.
But it’s going to take a couple of things to make that happen.
First, we have to make sure the private sector continues to invest in wireless networks and the devices and apps that use them. Last year, wireless service providers spent about $26 billion on building and maintaining the mobile infrastructure needed for wireless connectivity. These expenditures translate into jobs and economic opportunities for our communities. We need that investment to continue, and even increase, if we are to reach the President’s goal. The government must have policies in place that encourage this investment.
Second, more spectrum — the invisible airwaves that carry wireless signals — is required. As the wireless revolution continues to boom, we’ll need more spectrum to meet our growing demand. While recently passed legislation will free up a limited amount of spectrum, the government is the largest holder of spectrum. The government should quickly move to use its spectrum more efficiently and make spectrum available for consumer use. If we can do this, all Americans will be major beneficiaries.
Jason T. Lagria is the Telecommunications and Broadband Policy Staff Attorney at the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. AAJC works to promote universal access and reduce barriers to critical technology and services for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities.
Telemedicine continues to present new applications and possibilities for health care — everything from examinations via videoconference to electronic medical records, remote health monitoring, and quick and efficient diagnostic image sharing between health care professionals. Many people have already experienced the incredible ways in which new health technologies have changed the field, and more exciting technologies are on the horizon.
Telemedicine delivers quality health care to more people in more places, particularly to those who could not receive quality health care in the past, and it continues to present new solutions for health care access. But these applications and technologies depend on access to high-speed broadband Internet. In many areas across the country, that isn’t a problem. However, in rural locations, gaining access to reliable and affordable broadband service is often a serious challenge. Without that access, rural health care clinics cannot offer their patients the same cost-effective, cutting-edge quality of care that is available elsewhere.
To address this harmful discrepancy, the FCC-designed Rural Health Care program of the Universal Service Fund was created by Congress. I was integrally involved in the original legislative deliberations that resulted in the “Snowe-Rockefeller” USAC provisions of the Telecommunications Act in 1996. The program was designed to ensure that rural and urban health care providers and clinics pay similar rates for telecommunications services. The intent was (and is) noble, and the expansion of rural health care services is essential. However, the statutory language and resultant implementation has fallen short of its objective. The process of applying for and receiving telecommunications support from this program is hampered by red tape, hindering rural health care providers from gaining access to the tools they need, illustrating the pressing need for FCC reforms.
In order to receive support, rural health care providers must complete and file complicated FCC forms each year. These forms are numerous and are accompanied by confusing and intricate filing requirements; the entire process is considered burdensome. In an ex parte filing to the Wireline Competition Bureau from March 28, 2012, officials from the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health and the Michigan Center for Rural Health described some of the difficulties of the process and made suggestions to the FCC.
According to the filing, many health care providers must hire outside contractors to complete the required program paperwork every year because they lack the resources to handle the onerous paperwork themselves. In the filing, officials recommended that the FCC switch to a three-year period of eligibility, which would eliminate some of the paperwork burden. Additionally, the rural health care experts critiqued the unwieldy program for its odd and confusing design and for its “unusual” competitive bidding process, which has, for example, delayed implementation of the greater Minnesota telehealth broadband initiative pilot.
When a program that was established to address a problem fails to do so (and actually creates a larger workload), it drives home the need for thoughtful and effective FCC reforms.
This post was contributed by Ahmed Siddiqui, who is the founder of Go Go Mongo!, an educational game company that inspires kids to eat healthier. He can be reached through Twitter: @siddiquiahmed
Educational apps can do amazing things. National news stories have featured apps that teach geography and apps that help some children with autism find their voice. My app, Go Go Mongo, inspires healthy eating habits. Parents with children that use Go Go Mongo ask for more animation and video features. I’d LOVE to be able to provide these features but, unfortunately, bandwidth limitations have hindered my ability to serve my customers and grow my business.
With the introduction of Apple’s FaceTime feature, it seemed we would be able to add some really useful features in educational apps. We quickly found out that we were only going to be able to connect over a WiFi connection. Now, say I develop a homework app. Let’s say that all of your math homework is now done through an iPhone or iPad device. How great would it be to use FaceTime to call a teacher or friend for some help? If either the teacher or the child happens to be on a 3G connection at the time, the FaceTime call is not possible. The current 3G connections cannot support these calls because the live video uses way too much bandwidth.
More bandwidth (more available spectrum) would solve this problem, and a whole economy of educational apps could be built around live video interactions. Teachers could interact with students. Students could interact with parents who happen to be on the road for work. Parents could interact with teachers if their child is struggling in school. How cool is that!?
Another innovation introduced by Apple this year is iCloud. Although I haven’t seen many key implementations of iCloud in apps, I know that this is the next evolution. The PhotoStream feature that syncs all of your photographs from your iPhone to your MacBook to your iPad, works seamlessly in the background. However, as this traffic increases I could see a significant impact to bandwidth and spectrum.
Outside of the iCloud implementations, the general notion of cloud-based services on mobile could create some very interesting innovations. I personally love DropBox. I am starting to save all of my files to DropBox, because I am always on the go and love to retrieve my documents created on my MacBook on my iPhone. However, even short videos stored in the cloud still don’t work well while on a 3G connection.
Today’s mobile-savvy students are creating and consuming content all on their mobile devices. The cloud enables them to store this content and share with their peers and teachers. However, larger files just don’t open on today’s 3G connection. High school students won’t be able to download the 50-page assigned reading until they find a wireless connection.
The cloud and live video interaction are two key functions that need to be built into more educational applications. However, without good bandwidth (spectrum), many of these innovations will go to waste because nobody will be able to use them.
We need the government and mobile phone carriers to open up more spectrum so we can start building more innovative applications to improve education.
Yesterday, United States Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Jess Peterson attended a White House Rural Economic Forum at the Northwest Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa. Here’s his thoughts on the event. — IIA
It was exciting to hear President Obama’s remarks before we headed into our breakout sessions to discuss the importance of increased access to broadband Internet across the country. The President rightly pointed out that rural communities’ ability to benefit from innovation and efficiency is being stifled by the lack of access to high-speed broadband. I think it’s critical for private investment and public partnership to advance these goals to achieve increased access in the areas of our country where it matters most.
Access to reliable and fast mobile broadband is more than just a policy initiative. Here in rural America, we desperately need it — to enable America’s farmers and ranchers to keep up with market conditions, and to quickly and easily communicate with suppliers, customers and food processors. It’s a critical tool for those of us who help feed and clothe Americans and others around the world.
Next-generation mobile broadband in rural America will also come with a number of other benefits, like better healthcare for those who live far from the nearest hospital, online educational opportunities for students, and access to the global marketplace for all kinds of small businesses.
During my breakout session with White House officials, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar covered several of his department’s issue areas that will help enhance rural America, including natural resource management and conservation, and the preservation of public lands. Secretary Salazar echoed the President’s sentiment about the need to increase broadband access in underserved and rural communities, and he stressed the fact that this is an important piece to achieving overall Department of Interior goals. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to personally thank Secretary Salazar for his leadership on these issues, and promise him a continued partnership towards advancing these goals!
Northeast Iowa Community College is a great example of a success story as a result of the deployment of high-speed broadband Internet. Already, NICC has utilized this access to implement distance learning classes and programs so that students in rural America can achieve the same quality of education as those in urban areas. We need a lot more of these stories.
All in all, the White House Rural Economic Forum was a great event, demonstrating our nation’s leaders’ commitment to literally bringing rural America up-to-speed with the rest of the digitally connected nation. I look forward to learning more about what lies ahead for rural America.
— Jess Peterson
For more from Jess Peterson, check out this video he recorded for IIA.
As the nation’s health care services are increasingly delivered and accessed online, a divide is becoming more apparent between those who have access to broadband and those who do not. Making matters more complicated is the fact that more and more health care services are being offered online as well as mandates for electronic medical records. This trend toward the digitization of everything healthcare related could leave many unserved and underserved users on the wrong side of the digital divide.
To prevent this divide from widening, we as a nation must take affirmative steps to promote investment and innovation in broadband infrastructure as well as encouraging greater digital literacy. Without investment in critical broadband infrastructure, traditionally vulnerable and underserved segments of society will not have adequate access to broadband and the healthcare services that it will deliver. This means that underserved persons with diabetes and heart disease will not benefit from digital monitoring and online telehealth applications designed to monitor and detect abnormalities, before they become harmful or fatal problems. It is important to note that chronic disease disproportionately affects communities of color, seniors and low-income persons who stand to benefit most from chronic disease management services delivered online.
Investment — in health and digital literacy, and broadband infrastructure — is the first step toward providing access to all Americans. Innovation naturally follows next, as innovators and small business owners eager to invent new services find their way into the healthcare IT business and begin offering newer and better solutions that improve the quality of life of those with broadband access. But universal health care without universal broadband access could unintentionally create a new generation of medically underserved Americans – a new social class of high speed internet “have nots” — who will be unwillingly segregated from the broadband health care services that their fellow citizens enjoy.
The same obstacles that technology is designed to eliminate — weather, transportation, wait times — for the health care recipient who has to travel 10 miles to a library to use the Internet to access telehealth, the obstacles to change in name only; it’s as difficult to access broadband as it is to make a traditional doctors visit. Let’s avoid this tragedy by ensuring broadband access for all Americans by preserving the environment that has borne the thriving Internet we know today.
Marcia Thomas-Brown is an IIA Broadband Ambassador, Chief Operating Officer of the National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved, and Program Manager for Health Information Technology at the Summit Institute for Research and Education.
Carl W. Taylor, IIA Ambassador and Director of the Center for Strategic Health Innovation at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, attended a recent telemedicine conference in Las Vegas. Here’s his report:
This is not the blog I intended to post from the American Telemedicine Association meeting in Las Vegas. I was going to blog on the rapid emergence of large corporations into the telehealth arena. To be sure there are still small to mid size company innovations such as InTouchHealths robotics and Vecna’s health kiosk and deployable field ready health stations. But the real buzz this year in the growing presence of companies like Cisco, Bosch and Intel. After 4 decades of being the odd rounding error in the healthcare industry, telehealth may finally be ready to emerge as a valid and commercially viable delivery option. Now my preference will be to remain hopeful that the e-health, HIT, EHR, Health 2.0 , informatics, and telehealth industries will consolidate or at least learn to play nicely together so we dont go from paper silos of fragmented care to digital silos of fragmented care. At the very least the emergence of large companies whose portfolios also include e-health and Health 2.0 strategies should push this consolidation. The ATA conference is also a bit unique in that it grew this year despite a contracting economy and though there were a few no shows due to travel restrictions in state budgets, the lure of stimulus dollars and expanded industry presence made for an outstanding turnout.
Now, let me leave traditional healthcare delivery behind and talk about what I think is an even more timely issue. As I write this we are on the front end of trying to understand the H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak. Half of my day job is teaching disaster preparedness and deploying a situational awareness software tool to over 1,000 healthcare users (we give it away so this isnt a pitch). We have worked hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters for several years in the Deep South. For the response to those events our state and federally managed system of human volunteer deployment works well. However, I believe there will be challenges to the movement of human volunteers into areas of any widespread outbreak. Widespread infectious disease outbreaks highlight the need for a broadband communication response system of virtual medical care delivered to the point of need. What will be needed if not in this outbreak, certainly in others, will be the need to provide robust real time one to one, peer to peer and one to many healthcare.
In many parts of this country specialists with critical skills are embedded in large urban medical or university settings. Widespread outbreaks, particularly those with animal vectors are just as likely to be found in rural settings. Consequently connecting the specialists virtually to the patients without the need of either to travel is simply a paramount requirement. There are good examples of networks poised to deliver this kind of virtual care such as the Montana Infectious Disease Network, whose work was presented at the ATA Disaster Special Interest Group program yesterday morning (disclaimer I had a very small role in establishing that network). I recognize building a business plan around low frequency but high severity disasters is difficult, but once established these networks can, and should also be able to support daily healthcare needs as well. Regardless, as we consider the emerging consequences of this event the need to develop regional virtual disaster medical assistance teams with robust communication connectivity becomes apparent.
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