The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched US$ 400 million program under which patients in rural areas would be able to tap the nation's top doctors over the Internet.
The FCC selected Western North Carolina as the first region in the United States to get a grant under the Rural Health Care Pilot Program. The program will expand access to underserved communities with a broadband telemedicine network in 42 states and three U.S. Territories. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with the FCC on the project. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Western Carolina University and the Jackson County Department of Public Health will be partnering in administering US$ 3.6 million over the next three years to develop the program in rural WNC. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has partnered with Franklin-based Drake Enterprises and Southwestern Community College to bring an extensive fiber-optic network to the region. The quality broadband-connectivity is necessary because often large images and videos are sent to doctors to use in making a diagnosis. Telemedicine also relies on the ability to hold a video conference over the Internet and quickly send and receive medical records.