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Updated mapping platform shows connections between broadband, health

The Federal Communications Commission's Connect2Health Task Force updated its web-based mapping platform aimed at helping policy makers and healthcare providers make better decisions.

The Mapping Broadband Health in America platform now reflects the most recent annual fixed broadband dataset from the commission. Released in December 2016, the dataset covers submissions as of December 2015. In addition, the mapping platform also features updated health data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's County Health Rankings. The foundation, which bills itself as the nation's largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health, bases its county health ranking on a number of factors, including access to clinical care, tobacco use, healthy eating, education, income and environment.

In a June 8 news release, Connect2HealthFCC Task Force Chair Michele Ellison said the data update illustrates the importance of broadband in areas that do not have access to physicians or hospitals.

"The mapping platform shines a critical spotlight on the need for broadband health solutions in rural and digitally-isolated counties where physician shortages are more than double the national average," Ellison said.

The data found that more than 36 million people live in counties with high rates of chronic disease and a need for greater broadband connectivity. The figure represents an increase of 1 million between 2014 and 2015.

The data also found that preventable hospitalizations, or hospital stays that could have been avoided with appropriate care, are 150% higher in the least connected counties compared to other counties.

The FCC defines the term "broadband" as services that offer download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. The FCC's 2016 Broadband Progress Report estimated that 34 million, or 10%, of Americans lack access to fixed 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband service.