Once again Nevada?s Washington representatives are having?to resort to legislation to force?the slothful federal land agencies to more quickly allow the public?access to rights of way across putatively?public lands.
Earlier this month Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller added two?amendments to the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and?Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act (S. 2555) ? yes, to?those acronym-enamored lawmakers?and their staffs it is known as the MOBILE NOW Act.
Heller?s principal effort is to establish?what he calls a ?shot clock? that gives?federal land agencies 270 days in which?to decide on approval or disapproval?of applications for easements or rights?of way for fiber optics lines to improve?broadband access in rural areas of Nevada and across the West.
At a meeting of the Senate Committee?on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, Heller said of his ?shot clock??proposal, ?It?s a huge win for rural?America, especially rural Nevada. It?s?going to go a long way to helping my?state ? which as you know is controlled?85 percent by federal lands.
?Let me give you a couple of examples,? he said. ?First example is the?NTIA (National Telecommunications &?Information Administration) awarded a?grant years ago to get fiber out to seven?of Nevada?s rural hospitals. You know?it has taken years, years to get that out?there primarily because of how long it?took to get the applications approved by?both the BLM and the Bureau of Indian?Affairs. That?s just one example of why?this is so important.?
Another example he cited was an?effort by CenturyLink to provide?broadband service to a community of?300 just outside Las Vegas called Mount?Charleston.
?It?s a recreational area and it attracts?tourists and it also has a Girl Scout?camp out there,? Heller observed, ?but?it took more than two years just to?resolve service for the Girl Scout camp?due to federal bureaucracy. Mount?Charleston still isn?t fully connected,?years later.?
He concluded his ?shot clock? would?make a big difference.
In 2010 the Nevada Hospital Association (NHA) applied for and received?a $19.6 million grant for the purpose of?improving broadband telecommunications among rural Nevada hospitals.?With private funding the spending is?expected to reach $25 million.
The effort is part of the NHA?s Nevada?Broadband Telemedicine Initiative program, intended to improve patient care?by eliminating technology disparities?between rural and urban areas by establishing telemedicine ? remote medical diagnosis ? and setting up a Health?Information Exchange to allow remote?access to electronic health records.
In addition to rural hospitals, the?network is available to public safety?agencies, educational institutions and?tribal governments.
Though Heller mentioned seven?hospitals, the broadband expansion?is expected to affect health care facilities in Winnemucca, Pahrump,?Elko, Tonopah, Lovelock, Hawthorne,?Yerington, Ely, Gardnerville and Battle?Mountain, according to press accounts.
Back in 2014 the Reno newspaper already was reporting on the federal land?agency obstacles to connecting the rural?hospitals. The BLM finally waived its?demand for an expensive reclamation?bond to finance the restoration of the?land to its pristine state following the?laying of the lines.
The Nevada Broadband Telemedicine?Initiative would allow the state to serve?patients in Nevada with 21st century?telemedicine applications, said Bill?Welch, president of NHA. ?The goal of?our member health care facilities has?always been to provide patients with?the best possible care using the latest?technology available in the healthcare?industry,? he was quoted as saying.
?We feel this network is the next step in?living out that goal.?
Telemedicine allows patients in?rural areas to ?see? a doctor via video?over the Internet, saving the time and?expense of driving to Las Vegas or?Reno to see primary care or specialist?doctors.
Nevada law already permits this by?saying the practice of medicine means?to ?diagnose, treat, correct, prevent or?prescribe for any human disease,? etc.,?etc., including ?by using equipment that?transfers information concerning the?medical condition of the patient electronically, telephonically or by fiber optics.?
The MOBILE NOW Act ? to which?Heller added his amendments ? is?being pushed by South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune and aims primarily at encouraging federal agencies?to increase the airwave spectrum for?sale to broadband providers to connect?cell phones and remote internet connections, also a problem for rural areas.