- The Federal Communications Commission launched a new mapping tool on Tuesday to identify gaps and opportunities for broadband access to improve healthcare in the U.S.
- The interactive Mapping Broadband in America tool displays different aspects of connectivity and health for every state and county in the country, allowing users to generate customized maps of broadband availability alongside such health measures as obesity, diabetes and physician access.
- Broadband access is increasingly “a super-determinant of health,” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in announcing the tool.
The tool is part of the Connect2Health Task Force’s broader effort to chart the broadband future of healthcare. Improving the use of broadband access as a determinant of health with the tool also supports population health efforts.
“We are excited to make this state-of-the-art tool available to the public,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a release. “The unique insights revealed by this mapping platform can be utilized by businesses and policymakers to effect change and innovation.”
“The FCC’s mapping effort is historic, because it directly addresses the serious and growing challenge, of ensuring that the transformative power of broadband in health, is available to everyone,” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in remarks at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
The commission also released its two lists of counties — Priority 100 and Rural 100 — where health needs are high and connectivity is poor. Many are concentrated in the South and Midwest, broadband access averages 8% and diabetes and obesity rates are 34% and 24%, respectively, above the national average, Clyburn said.
She pointed to examples where connectivity is impacting healthcare in communities, including University of Virginia stroke neurologists who are using broadband connections to consult with rural doctors on care for stroke victims.
The FCC is seeking feedback as it refines the tool. Comments may be submitted to GN Docket 16-91 on the commission’s electronic comment filing system.