Craig Settles: If You Can’t Offer Free Internet, Consider Telehealth: Broadband Breakfast

vice president Kamala Harris personally rallied state governors – “everyone is on deck” to enroll more homes in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). This Friday, the FCC will likely authorize a $100 million grant program to help boost the numbers. The White House went online nationwide to energize community players and activists.

What’s new? ACP is a free monthly internet program with a $100 grant for a computing device. So far, about 12 million households have signed up for CPA. However, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Internet for All website estimates that there are more than 51 million CPA-eligible households. Thirty-nine million households can be a significant reach.

“Adoption of CPA has been difficult because there is no money to help those of us who manage the process and have community ties,” says DebSocial, President and CEO of The Enterprise Center, a local economic development partner in Chattanooga. “I have a full-time person just to help people sign up, but I had to fundraise to do that.”

Hopefully this Friday the FCC will give the “green light” to what it calls “Your Home, Your Internet.” Socia and many others can hire more people who know communities and neighborhoods well. However, the key to increasing CPA participation is not more money! Rather, the key is more money spent more wisely.

The great thing about marketing is… it works!

Prior to community broadband, I did marketing and PR consulting for industry giants such as Lotus Development, Microsoft, and AT&T and a bunch of tech startups. These companies knew that a successful marketing tactic was (and still is) to allow prospects to demo products in a live environment. Whether it’s a game or commercial technology, demonstrate it.

ACP markets are very low-income households. Community texts, backpack flyers and bus stops have to compete for attention with 6,000 to 10,000 marketing messages per person per day, children cry, adults wail, rush to the third job, etc. Parents worry about where the next family meal is coming from, kids worry about getting shot. Additionally, with a significant portion of residents on the left fearing government or incumbent network intrusion, surveillance, or bait-and-switch scams, conservatives seem wary of anything Democrat-sponsored.

A winning demo? Telehealth. But everyone gets sick sometimes – low-income people far more than everyone else. Often they are responsible for other sick people. So let “telehealth and convenient healthcare delivery” be the marketing message that drives CPA.

The Enterprise Center is planning a pilot project involving 1,000 free telehealth appointments targeted to one of Chattanooga’s poorest neighborhoods. They have a high incidence of strokes, heart disease, diabetes and asthma. The pilot project includes training, a new Chromebook and home internet access to meet residents’ needs.

Six tactics for communities to deploy telehealth and commercialize PCA

Here are six tactics communities can use to deploy telehealth while bringing some order, shape, and priority to PCA adoption. Develop statewide media campaigns that build marketing awareness and enthusiasm for community needs assessments for NITA’s BEAD and DEA grant programs.

1. Reinvent the doctor visit for various health care practices, including medical consultation, medical observation, screening, data collection and exchange. For example, recruit barbershops, barbershops, churches, and laundromats in African-American neighborhoods where hypertension screening services are provided, and customers, parishioners, patrons, and others can then contact register for CPA and telehealth.

2. Use telehealth to provide chronic health care and home care so that constant appointments and treatments can be done less intrusively at home or possibly at work. Hospitals, doctors’ offices and clinics can prescribe telehealth solutions and provide patients with hardware to enroll in ACP and ISP computing devices. Some hospitals give their chronically ill patients computer devices.

3. Improve emergency response to save more lives. Maybe some of the facilities can treat non-serious patients (those who treat emergencies like their primary care doctor) and then give them ACP and telehealth documents so an ISP can enroll patients.

4. To increase the efficiency of mental health care delivery. Now could be a good opportunity to pilot a program that gives police officers multiple emergency URLs so they can line up mental health professionals to defuse situations and direct people in mental health crisis to the ACP when possible. It may not produce a lot of CPA signups, but it’s great publicity for CPA and telehealth.

5. Improve care for the elderly and facilitate aging in place. Allowing multiple senior centers and libraries to offer a series of senior-appropriate screenings followed by demonstrations of telehealth, digital literacy, and ACP enrollment could be awesome.

6. Reinvent what hospital care can be. Various cities could consider equipping two or three social housing units so that they can become mobile telehealth clinics.

Next time I will discuss setting up a campaign to recruit, coordinate and motivate unofficial community leaders to implement these various tactics. These unofficial leaders wield considerable influence in their respective communities – barbershops, hairdressers, local grocery store owners, pastors, libraries, etc.

Saved from a stroke by telehealth, Craig Settles is paying off by uniting community broadband teams and healthcare stakeholders through telehealth-broadband integration initiatives.

Broadband Breakfast welcomes comments from knowledgeable observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to [email protected] The views reflected in expert opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC. This expert review has been slightly edited to conform to Broadband Breakfast style.

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