News

Leveraging Connections

1/24/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Internet providers talk a lot
about extending broadband to remote rural
areas, especially for vital services like
health care.

Eric Brown is doing something about it.
Brown, the former Charter Communications
West Division president, runs the California
Telehealth Network, an emerging
statewide broadband network to expand
health-care access in rural and medically
underserved areas.

CTN received a $22.1 million grant from
the Federal Communications Commission,
the largest single-state award of its kind.
AT&T won a competition to be the statewide
vendor, doing installs and providing routers and managing
the network.

More than 800 locations, in places as distant as Death
Valley, have qualified for low-cost broadband circuits.
Health-care clinics in those areas will link to specialists
in hospital centers at University of California campuses.

“My mission when I get up every day: I think about
how we can improve clinical outcome, improve access
to care to those that geographically are distant
from it and then how we reduce cost,”
Brown said. “If we can use broadband to address
those key issues, then regardless of
where you stand on the politics of it, I think
it’s a good thing for this country.”

AT&T sees the business potential in healthcare
infrastructure, as do cable firms. “It’s
clearly a growth area for all telecom providers,”
Brown said.

Two years ago, when the contract went to
bid, cable providers weren’t in a position to
meet the criteria for a statewide network, he
said. That could change when AT&T’s fouryear
contract lapses.

CTN also wants to promote health-care applications,
Brown said. “There are a lot of similarities to things we
learned in the early days of cable, as you try to create
service offerings that make sense to leverage the broadband
connections that you have.”

In Brown, who also worked at indie programmers The
Africa Channel and WealthTV, CTN has leveraged a key
cable connection.

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