COVID-19 and its impact on rural broadband, healthcare

Rural broadband and healthcare providers continue to face challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Catherine Moyer, CEO of Kansas-based Pioneer Communications, says many schools and businesses moved online in a short amount of time and broadband providers had to adjust to meet the needs of the community.

“We increased broadband speeds across the board, we increased capacity on our network both in our internal transport network but also to the outside world, we added additional Wi-Fi hotspots that we opened up to the public, and we also worked with our customers as they faced unexpected financial issues,” she says.  

Rick Breuer, CEO of Minnesota-based Community Memorial Hospital, says they were going to spend a year preparing a telehealth platform for the community and instead had it ready in two weeks because of COVID-19.  

“A lot of rural facilities were in the exact same boat because you just had to if you were going to maintain viable service,” he says. “So, we did it and we had a great team that got it up and running and we had very patient providers willing to work through all the bugs,” he says.

He says telehealth services will remain in place long after the country recovers from the pandemic.

Breuer and Moyer say assistance from the administration has helped, but more must be done in the future.

Breuer says there are some rural clinics that haven’t been eligible for assistance, but he hopes they will be soon. Moyer says she’s hopeful Congress will address universal service and the Keeping Critical Connections Act.

Breuer and Moyer made these comments during a from the farm gate webinar by Farm Credit.

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