Connect Americans Now (CAN) Applauds Senate Commerce Lawmakers for Highlighting Importance of Broadband for Telehealth

Hearing Showcases Urgency for Permanent Solutions to Bridge Digital Divide, Ensure Every American Can Access 21st Century Health Care Tools

Press Release
October 7, 2021
Contact: Jon Conradi
[email protected]

Washington, D.C. – Connect Americans Now (CAN) executive director Richard T. Cullen released the following statement Thursday following a U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband hearing entitled, “State of Telehealth: Removing Barriers to Access and Improving Patient Outcomes.”

“CAN commends Chairman Luján and Ranking Member Thune for holding this important hearing that helped highlight the urgent need for permanent solutions to bridge the digital divide so every American can access telehealth services,” said Connect Americans Now Executive Director Richard T. Cullen. “During the hearing, lawmakers showed overwhelming consensus, from both sides of the aisle, that digital equity and broadband connectivity is needed to secure a stronger health care future for every American, regardless of zip code or income.”

“As several lawmakers noted during the hearing, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, recently passed by the Senate, includes a critical $65 billion down payment toward closing the broadband gap,” added Cullen. “The House must swiftly advance this package and Congress must continue working on permanent solutions to expand broadband access, adoption and skills training.

Here are what senators and expert witnesses had to say about the necessity of closing the digital divide to expand equitable access to telehealth services:

Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Chairman, Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband:

“At this moment the United States Congress stands at a critical juncture, we’re on the cusp of a historic bipartisan infrastructure package that invests $65 billion in broadband infrastructure and broadband affordability. This investment has the opportunity to improve connectivity and access to education, jobs and critically life-saving treatments.”

Senator John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband:

“In my role on this committee, I will continue to advocate for the expansion of broadband services which has allowed more patients in rural areas take advantage of telehealth services.”

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chairwoman, Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation:

“While access in some parts of the United States is challenging, affordability is a bigger problem. It is in sheer numbers what is preventing us from delivering something on telehealth so we need to do both and hopefully we can do both and hopefully this committee can play a larger role in communicating to our colleagues what are some burgeoning technology solutions that I think could expedite us.”

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ranking Member, Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation:

“Telehealth has become an indispensable part of our health care system. The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated the expansion of telehealth as more aspects of our lives moved online. Today, millions of Americans, particularly in rural and underserved communities, rely on telehealth for real-time and continuous medical care… Ultimately, we will not realize the full benefit of telehealth without reliable broadband access. Senator Lujan in his statement correctly said we must conquer the digital divide in order to have effective telehealth and he’s correct there. More than 14 million Americans lack access to a broadband access, and a vast majority of those Americans — 11 million — live in rural areas. Our nation’s rural communities should have access to the range of benefits that come from having a broadband connection, including telehealth.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN):

“Y’all know we just did in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that we’re very proud of, that passed the Senate, $65 billion when it came to broadband and that is getting to these very areas that may not have an expert in a certain medical field next door, so it goes hand in hand.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT):

“Broadband – in other words, high speed affordable broadband – is really an essential need. It’s not a convenience or a luxury. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the digital divide including the homework gap. But that divide can mean a life or death difference to underserved communities.”

Senator Gary Peters (D-MI):

“The University of Michigan recently put out a report that found that patients who are African American, or folks who may need an interpreter or use Medicaid as a primary insurance, or certainly if they live in a low broadband area, are much less likely to access


video visits. For example, it’s estimated that 10 percent of African Americans and 12 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries were less likely to access video visits compared to audio only visits. So we’ve seen these kinds of health disparities certainly play out across the pandemic.”

Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA):

“This issue around the digital divide is also an equity issue. About one in every 11 locations in Georgia lacks reliable broadband services, and 75 percent of these underserved locations are in rural areas. I was proud to join Chairman Luján and others to champion increased broadband funding in the bipartisan infrastructure package. I hope the House will pass it soon. But even if that bill were signed into law today, it could take many years before some of these areas are served with high-speed Internet.”

Sterling N. Ransone Jr., MD, FAAFP, President, American Academy of Family Physicians:

“Without broadband, many rural, tribal, and urban areas lack critical resources, and physicians face greater difficulty serving these communities. Recent research found that lack of access to highspeed internet was a primary barrier to equitable telehealth access for patients in rural areas, and stories from family physicians confirm that too many people have been left out as telehealth has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic. We must make sure that, moving forward, we have policies and programs in place that enable equitable telehealth access and utilization.”

Brendan Carr, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission:

“Analysts estimate that the widespread use of remote patient technology and virtual doctor visits could save the American health care system $305 billion annually. While the benefits of telehealth are clear, barriers remain—from legal and regulatory to connectivity challenges… Yet there remain too many Americans without access to affordable, high-speed connections… We do need billions and billions of dollars to finish the job of bridging the digital divide.”

Deanne Larson, President, Avel eCARE:

“Telemedicine can help bring care to underserved communities by eliminating travel, accessibility, and scheduling concerns. This utilization of telemedicine services by underserved groups is significant, and depends largely on their access to reliable, high-speed internet. Without convenient access to broadband connectivity enhances, our ability to reach patients with augmented, high-touch care is greatly restricted.”

Sanjeev Arora, MD, MACP, FACG, Founder, Project ECHO, Distinguished Professor of Medicine, University of New Mexico:

“To enable telehealth of all kinds, we need to ensure that providers and patients in rural and underserved communities have access to broadband and high-speed internet. Improving broadband will support all three domains of telehealth – remote monitoring; telemedicine; and telementoring. And all three have the potential to expand access to best practice treatment and advance health equity in rural communities and urban underserved areas.”

Watch the full hearing HERE.

Read about how the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will improve broadband connectivity and digital equity HERE.

Read more about the digital divide and solutions to permanently close the broadband gap HERE.

About Connect Americans Now (CAN)

Connect Americans Now (CAN) is a broad-based coalition of more than 300 companies and organizations representing leading voices in agriculture, education, health care, veterans’ issues, technology and small business — committed to urgent action to completely eliminate the digital divide in every American community.


Join our fight to bring broadband to all rural Americans. Tell Washington to take action to bridge the digital divide now!