Not everyone enjoys internet access
BY CLELIA LIMA
Over the past two years, many have recognized the need for connectivity, but still there are Floridians who are without internet or have limited access to a service most of us rely on daily.
With health at the forefront of the push for digital connectivity, it is critical to prioritize the ability to provide telehealth options to encourage regular, quality care that allows providers to reach all patients — even those in rural areas who don’t have the same internet access as most Floridians.
Working in the medical field for more than 20 years, I have seen the effects of limited internet access on patients and families. While the increasing number of providers offering telehealth has expanded over the course of the pandemic, access to these sometimes-lifesaving options has not.
People in our less populated communities have not had the same ability to maintain their health, even in a global health crisis.
Fortunately, this lack of access can be made less severe by meaningful investments to improve connectivity that is critical to the health and well-being of all Floridians — even those in rural areas.
The American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress bring significant amounts of taxpayer dollars back to Florida. These funds can be spent by state and local governments on a variety of things, one of which is expanding and improving broadband access.
It may be hard for people living in our state’s urban areas to believe, but there are still many who have no choice but to go without the ability to use the internet for virtual school, remote work, online shopping, staying connected with friends and family, and telemedicine.
During the pandemic, many Florida families relied on telehealth as a safe and critical resource for receiving continued care, but in some communities, the digital divide made this impossible.
We have an opportunity to urge our leaders to make intentional investments that will endure the test of time, in securing broadband connections. As our reliance on the internet and connectivity expands, allocating these funds to future-proof solutions such as fiber networks is paramount.
Fiber is capable of symmetrical upload and download speeds that are increasingly important as many have transitioned their work and school life to home via the internet. Luckily, there are reliable and experienced providers capable of installing fiber networks that can reach our rural communities first.
By using these funds to bridge the digital divide, we can have the best health care options for all Floridians.
Florida is home to some of the brightest medical providers, and by securing connectivity for those in less-populated areas, we can guarantee these Floridians can count on access to the best providers across the state that can provide a range of care options to keep all Florida families healthy.
— Lima, who lives in Orlando, is a doctor of nursing practice and an advanced-practice registered nurse. She specializes as a family nurse practitioner and is the founder and CEO of FeelWell Telehealth.