Infrastructure Policy: Towards Digital Inclusion

Research focusing on infrastructure and increasing connectivity explores ways around broadband challenges (smartphone use, satellite technology, use of unused TV frequencies or of federal funds allocated to support landline phone use in low-income populations) but the consensus is, broadband is a Social Determinant of Health and increasing broadband is the most necessary and important policy lever (Perzynski et. al, 2017). Most efforts aimed at increasing connectivity in underserved communities involve The Federal Communications Commission’s programs. They focus heavily on rural and frontier areas, although some urban areas can qualify if they meet certain criteria of need like low SES or migrant populations. There are two components to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC): the Universal Service Fund directly targets individuals living in underserved areas by subsidising broadband services through its Connect America Fund and Lifeline programs. Providers are targeted separately through the Rural Health Care (RHC) program, which provides subsidies to health care facilities for telehealth and telemedicine services, typically by a combination of video-conferencing infrastructure and high speed Internet access.