$3.6 Million Grant Award Will Bring High Speed Broadband Access to our Region
November 21, 2007
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) yesterday dedicated $3.6 million for the construction of a regional broadband telehealth network under the Rural Health Care Pilot Program (RHCPP), announced Franklin Community Health Network President and CEO Richard Batt.
"This is a true Thanksgiving gift for our health systems and for our rural communities," said Batt, "It is a fundamental principle of Franklin Community Health Network that improving health includes improving the economic health and well-being of the people in our community. That's why for a long time our health network has championed expansion of broadband access to our business community, because rural communities cannot compete unless we access the global markets that our more urban counterparts can reach through high-speed internet."
Batt continued, "In addition to improving our economy, this grant will improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of our health system. Our hospital and our physician practices will have broadband access, which we do not have today, and our physicians, nurses, and other providers will be able to access important information and health records from their homes. This is critical for providers who are on-call and for our emergency preparedness."
The Rural Western and Central Maine Broadband Initiative, a collaborative proposal spearheaded by Franklin Community Health Network (FCHN) and involving HealthReach Network Community Health Centers and Central Maine Healthcare, will bring broadband access to healthcare providers and healthcare consumers in rural western and central Maine communities. In healthcare, broadband networks have been found to deliver services efficiently, reduce costs and travel time for consumers, decrease medical errors, and enable healthcare providers to share critical information.
FCHN applied to FCC's RHCPP for funding to establish the necessary broadband infrastructure in this region. "Access to high-speed Internet provided by this initiative will greatly benefit area healthcare providers, who will be granted uninterrupted, secure connections and increased capacity to support distance learning, telemedicine, and other emerging technologies such as digital imaging and electronic medical records," said Ralph Johnson, FCHN Chief Information Officer who will be responsible for the project's implementation. "Importantly, this access will also provide area organizations with new ways to educate, connect with, and provide services to the community."
Initially, new fiber optic cable will be put in place at Franklin Memorial Hospital, Rockomeka Family Practice in Livermore Falls, Bethel Area Health Center, Belgrade Regional Health Center, Western Maine Family Health Center in Livermore Falls, and Bridgton and Rumford Hospitals. The cable will be extended to Strong Area Health Center, Mt. Abram Regional Health Center in Kingfield, and Rangeley Region Health Center in 2010.
"Expanded broadband infrastructures will bring great benefits to this hospital and to our community. This level of connectivity will help us to better serve our patients through increased capacity for telemedicine programs and other technologies," said Richard Batt, FCHN President. "Bringing broadband to our communities will also support the economic health of the region as communities and businesses are brought online. Everyone - from businesses to educators to social service organizations to individual community members - can benefit from this increased connectivity. We are proud to bring this benefit to rural Maine communities."
Broadband deployment is one of the Commission's top priorities, particularly in rural America, according to a press release provided by the FCC.
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