Grow­ing ac­cess to broad­band could save lives, doc­tor tes­ti­fies

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ford Turner

STROUDS­BURG — Telemedici­ne can help save lives, and im­prov­ing broad­band in­ter­net ac­cess makes telemedici­ne work bet­ter, an anes­the­si­ol­o­gist said in tes­ti­mony sub­mit­ted at a leg­isla­tive hear­ing Tues­day.

The com­ments sub­mit­ted by Penn­syl­va­nia Med­i­cal So­ci­ety Pres­i­dent Dr. Danae Pow­ers were for the sec­ond of four hear­ings to be held statewide on in­creas­ing ac­cess to high­speed broad­band in­ter­net ser­vice.

“Whether it is a con­cerned par­ent whose ru­ral pe­di­a­tri­cian needs the ex­per­tise of a sub­spe­cial­ist, the in­ner-city par­ent whose high-risk preg­nancy is jeop­ar­dized be­cause of the trans­porta­tion ob­sta­cles, or the in­abil­ity to ac­cu­rately di­ag­nose a ru­ral pa­tient’s pos­si­ble stroke be­cause there isn’t a neu­rol­o­gist within a twohour drive; telemedici­ne can quite lit­er­ally be the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death,” Pow­ers said in writ­ten tes­ti­mony.

Fund­ing ex­panded ru­ral in­ter­net ac­cess was a com­po­nent of a pro­posed $4 bil­lion-plus cap­i­tal im­prove­ment pro­gram pro­posed by Gov. Tom Wolf, a Demo­crat, ear­lier this year.

Al­though Wolf ’s pro­posal is still await­ing ac­tion in Har­ris­burg — and Repub­li­cans have pitched al­ter­na­tive pro­pos­als — hear­ings like the one held Tues­day are fo­cus­ing at­ten­tion on the crimp­ing ef­fects of slow in­ter­net.

The hear­ing at the Mon­roe County Pub­lic Safety Cen­ter was con­ducted by the Se­nate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions & Tech­nol­ogy Com­mit­tee.

The Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion has said more than 800,000 Penn­syl­va­nia res­i­dents do not have ac­cess to broad­band in­ter­net con­nec­tions.

Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, a York County Repub­li­can and chair of the com­mit­tee, said the fig­ure in­cluded 25,000 peo­ple in her own county.

Sen. Mario Scavello, a Mon­roe County Repub­li­can who helped host the ses­sion, said that ex­pand­ing broad­band in Mon­roe would let some county res­i­dents who drive more than two hours to jobs in New York City work from home.

Among those who tes­ti­fied Tues­day was state Pub­lic Util­ity Com­mis­sion Chair­man Gla­dys Brown Dutrieuill­e, who said a big is­sue would be “the cost of the build-out” for de­ploy­ing broad­band equip­ment in ru­ral ar­eas. She did not give a num­ber.

In his Re­store Penn­syl­va­nia pro­posal is­sued ear­lier this year, Wolf said grants would be made avail­able to bring high­speed in­ter­net to all parts of the state.

Morn­ing Call reporter Ford Turner can be reached at 717783-7305 or [email protected]

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