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Broadband and tuberculosis. The health benefits shouldn’t be ignored

Taking medication to address a health concern can be tedious and depressing.  I know first hand having been diagnosed as diabetic.  Those of us on insulin go through the daily routine of checking our blood sugar; administering our insulin; counting carbohydrates; and ensuring we get a sufficient amount of exercise in so that we can burn that excess sugar.

Monitoring all this is a pain in the ass.

I can only imagine what monitoring concerns tuberculosis patients have.  Although the disease is relatively rare today, thousands of Americans have it and have to undergo a time consuming and expensive regimen of monitoring adherence to drug prescription usage and dosage.  According to a piece written by Rose Stuckey Kirk, smartphone technology can be used to reduce the costs of implementing patient monitoring programs, thus facilitating the effectiveness of drugs used to combat the disease.

In her piece, Ms. Kirk describes how video directly observed therapy can be used to ensure patients are taking medication as described.  Using smartphone technology, a patient video records when they take their medication and submits the record to his doctor.  This approach to drug monitoring is now being used in San Diego, New York, San Francisco, and London.  I hope that the technology can be used in other cities here and around the world as well.

What concerns me however, is whether current public and regulatory policy is supporting this path to improving public health.  For example, in the Maryland General Assembly, the House will take up HB 48, a bill that prohibits certain telephone companies from replacing landline or wireline service with certain wireless telephone service, subject to certain exceptions.  The bill also prohibits the Maryland Public Service Commission from authorizing such replacements.  That bill is scheduled to be introduced on the House fllor on January 8.

In Georgia, the Georgia Public Service Commission adopted in  October 2013 a rule that would require low income Lifeline recipients of free cell phones to pay five dollars a month for their mobile service.  The rule, which is currently being challenged in federal court by CTIA, was implemented to address potential fraud in the Lifeline system.

These two actions could adversely impact efforts to adopt the broadband technology necessary for making the tuberculosis drug monitoring program more widespread for patients.  Prohibiting replacement of legacy networks with wireless networks means a wireless broadband network with less of the capacity needed to manage data traffic for drug monitoring and other mobile health services.

A five dollar fee on low income Lifeline recipients puts a subscriber in a position of deciding between accessing broadband data services or using funds for other items.

If people with health needs are to make the most of new technology; if our social policy is to ensure that all citizens are getting the best care available; and if our social goal is universal access to a broadband network that makes delivery of the technology and health services more effective, then public policy should reflect that.


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Let broadband lighten up your kid’s backpack

Posted December 23rd, 2013 in Broadband, Education, knowledge economy and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Sometimes I wonder if my son is a student or an astronaut walking on the Moon.  A sixth grader at one of Atlanta’s charter schools, his week nights and weekends are chock fill of assignments.  It freaks me out sometimes the size of his backpack and any attempts on might part to help him lighten the load is usually met with, “No, Dad.  I need those extra books!”

So I could easily relate to the opening paragraphs of this article in The Huffington Post written by Jim Fitzgerald.   In the article, Mr. Fitzgerald discusses one New York school’s efforts to improve student performance by moving their kids from hard cover text books to text books accessed on cloud-based servers.  The private school in the article saw students save on book fees ( with average fees falling from $600 to $150) and probably backaches as just about every text book was replaced with online access.

As for the cost, Mr. Fitzgerald points to the realism of deploying digital text book access:

“Going digital is not inexpensive. Stepinac had to invest $1 million in infrastructure, including increased bandwidth. The expense has been a barrier in getting most multischool public districts to make the all-digital leap.” 

Archbishop Stepinac High School is a private school and from the article I gather the students are paying for access out of their tuition.  Public schools like my son’s will have to find the political will and budget funds to pay for the infrastructure necessary to provide the bandwidth necessary for access to online text materials.

We are becoming increasingly wired as a society and an economy.  Young people today are tech savvy when it comes to YouTube and Google, but the online research skills and coding skills necessary for competition in the knowledge and information markets can be taught in schools meaning that our high schools need to be wired in order to add value to their educational services.

Here’s to lighter backpacks and fewer backaches.

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Remembering the moon landing

Posted July 20th, 2013 in Education and tagged , , by Alton Drew

I called my son into my room to show him footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing. We watched a couple minutes of footage where Neil Armstrong touched the lunar surface and uttered the notice, “That’s one small step for man … One giant leap forward mankind.” I explained to him that this is the result when we focus our mental and intellectual capabilities on doing great things.

Feel free to check out some old video from Apollo 11. Ten thousand years from now, only one name will be remembered. Armstrong. And it will be attached to doing the impossible.

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Can government intervention really push Florida to the next level of broadband infrastructure?

Posted February 25th, 2012 in Broadband, Education, Florida and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Just read an insightful blog post by Citizens for a Digital Future. The post addresses online education in my former home state of Florida. According the report, online education is bringing Florida students additional value. The questioned posed in the piece is what can Florida government, particularly the legislature, do to increase broadband access.

I would recommend two approaches. One, the legislature should advocate and support attempts by larger carriers to obtain spectrum from smaller carriers and broadcasters. Larger carriers with the technical and financial ability to generate economies of scale are in a very good position to deploy wireless broadband facilities into unserved or underserved areas of Florida. The legislature should understand that it’s not about the number of carriers. It’s about the quality of carrier.

Second, just like Florida contracts out for the building and maintenance of its highways and ports, the legislature should look at broadband as infrastructure. It should create broadband infrastructure funds dedicated to building the conduits necessary for deploying these services.

Florida, like any other state, cannot afford to fall behind in the new knowledge economy.