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PacTech hosts Rep. Greg Walden

In October, PacTech was proud to convene an exciting roundtable discussion with U.S. Representative Greg Walden (OR-2). Since 1999, Rep. Walden has served on behalf of the largest district in Oregon, which covers many of the rural areas of the state.

For many, it may seem an odd choice to hold a tech-centric event outside of a major urban area, but those people have never been to Prineville, OR. The St. Charles Health Center in Prineville hosted our event, which focused on rural broadband issues. This new, state-of-the-art medical facility is a regional leader in telehealth technology, helping people in Oregon’s most remote areas access world-class specialists and care.

We started the event with a tour of the facility where we saw what broadband is delivering to rural America including real time remote patient monitoring and mobile examines. According to the FCC, 53% of rural Americans are underserved when it comes to broadband access. However, this community of 9,200 is realizing some real world benefits high-speed connectivity, including telehealth at this state of the art facility.

After seeing first-hand the incredible technology and marveling at the possibilities that telehealth can bring, we sat down with a group of local civic and tech leaders to discuss the state of connectivity in rural Oregon. Almost immediately, the topic of our discussion turned to the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality ruling and its detrimental effect on the region. When asked to summarize the effect that this ruling has had on his district, Rep. Walden’s answer was simple: “It’s not good.” According to Rep. Walden, capital expenditures—essentially, the amount of money that private companies invest in expanding and improving telecommunications infrastructure—have sharply declined in the months since the ruling.  

Rural communities already face so many challenges in connecting with the resources that other in urban and suburban areas take for granted. When additional barriers to investment are added to the equation, the outcome can jeopardize an entire community’s growth. Regulation that comes out of Washington, D.C. may seem removed from our everyday lives, but in fact, over-regulation of the Internet has a real and lasting impact in rural communities. As one attendee put it, the FCC’s recent decision about Internet regulation is a “solution in search of a problem” that has had far-reaching, negative effects.

While we can’t always count on D.C.-based regulators to be mindful of the needs of rural Oregonians, there is some good news. We have an incredibly responsive, empathetic and well-informed leader in Rep. Greg Walden. We hope that he will share the discussion from this event with his colleagues in Washington, D.C. and PacTech will continue to do everything it can to shed light on the stories and challenges our local innovators face.

Categories Blog | Tags: | Posted on November 3, 2015

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