Today access to broadband internet is a vital utility that allows people access to job opportunities, education, and healthcare as well as being an important tool for public information and safety. Yet at least eighteen percent of Oregonians do not have home internet access.
“Tomorrow morning, an expectant mother will wake up before dawn, get in her car, and drive three and a half hours on mountain roads, through wind and snow, just to reach a routine checkup. That is the reality many rural Oregonians face when trying to access health care,” said Margi Hoffmann, State Director for USDA RD in Oregon, in a statement.
United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) has announced that it is investing two million dollars towards increasing broadband access in Oregon with a particular focus on better access to telehealth services. An additional $500,000 investment by USDA RD will help create a Broadband Technical Assistance Program, a new strategy to help internet service providers, tribes, and rural communities access government funding for broadband access. The Roundhouse Foundation is pleased to contribute to the Broadband Technical Assistance Program, providing an additional $85,000.
“The Roundhouse Foundation fully supports and recognizes the importance of reliable internet services in rural communities,” said Erin Borla, Executive Director of The Roundhouse Foundation. “Today many of Oregon’s residents have subpar internet services, which limits their ability to access opportunities for healthcare, education, economic and critical information. Our contribution is intended to change that.”
The hope is that the program will develop projects that will help build up more robust broadband networks and, therefore, easier and faster access to healthcare and telehealth services. This program’s goal is to make sure rural Oregonians, especially Tribes and communities located in sparsely populated or isolated areas, alongside their internet service providers, are able to better compete for and access this state and federal funding.
Grants in USDA RD’s two-million-dollar investment are already set to One Community Health, Santiam Memorial Hospital, and Providence Health and Services with telemedicine equipment and funding for dedicated telehealth staff. These three telehealth projects will make health and dental care more accessible and affordable for rural Oregonians.
The Roundhouse Foundation seeks to ensure the long-term success of rural and remote Oregon communities through projects like this one that enhance the information access, health, and well-being of residents.
Photo credits: USDA Rural Development