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Greg Walden examines solutions to expand broadband in rural Oregon

Greg Walden examines solutions to expand broadband in rural Oregon

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Continuing his efforts to improve connectivity in eastern Oregon, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) today held a hearing to examine solutions to expand broadband access for rural communities in Oregon and across the country. Representative Walden, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, detailed the widespread benefits of connecting people with broadband access regardless of where they live.

“Farmers and ranchers across my district have taken advantage of precision agriculture technology to reduce inputs. And the transition to next generation 9-1-1 is critical for strengthening public safety. Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st century,” said Walden. “Broadband means jobs. Jobs come from deployment — building towers and cell sites, laying fiber, launching satellites, and upgrading facilities that constitute the physical infrastructure. The economic benefits don’t stop at construction. Maintaining this infrastructure requires high-skilled jobs in engineering, network management, cybersecurity, advertising, and customer service. And beyond all that, we know broadband is a force multiplier for job creation, providing efficiencies for every sector of the economy.”

Walden’s hearing, entitled “Realizing the Benefits of Rural Broadband: Challenges and Solutions,” also included testimony from Wallowa County nurse, Jenni Word, who serves as Associate Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer of Wallowa Memorial Hospital in eastern Oregon. Walden invited Word to testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee to detail how broadband can help improve access to care for patients in rural communities through technology like telehealth.

“Wallowa Memorial Hospital provides oncology, rheumatology, cardiology for adults and children, orthopedic, psychology, neurology and palliative care services through telemedicine,” said Word. “This technology saves patients two-and-a-half hours of driving — and many gallons of gas – for what is usually a 15 to 30 minute visit with a specialist. Other services are available via telehealth at Wallowa.”

Jenni Word (second from right), Associate Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer of Wallowa Memorial Hospital in Oregon, testifies before Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding broadband expansion in rural Oregon.

As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Walden continues to be at the forefront of expanding broadband infrastructure to rural Oregon. Under Walden’s leadership, Congress passed and the President signed into law the RAY BAUM’s Act, which reauthorized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the first time in 25 years and provides new tools to support broadband expansion.

Recently, Walden invited FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to eastern Oregon to discuss efforts to improve connectivity in rural communities, including making sure patients in remote areas have access to the best doctors through technology like telehealth. The Energy and Commerce Committee continues to examine additional bipartisan legislation to better coordinate federal efforts to expand broadband in rural Oregon and across the country, which is a top priority of Walden’s as Chairman.

During her testimony, Jenni Word applauded Walden and the Energy and Commerce Committee for their consistent work to improve broadband connectivity in rural Oregon.

“On behalf of rural eastern Oregon, I would like to thank the committee for its work to expand the broadband infrastructure in rural areas. I want to especially thank you for your work to pass the RAY BAUM’s Act,” said Word. “We appreciate your commitment to removing federal barriers, increasing spectrum availability and funding broadband for rural America. I especially want to acknowledge the work Mr. Walden has done in this area.

“Finally, I applaud your continued commitment to addressing the digital divide in unserved and underserved rural areas. Rural hospitals stand ready to work with you to achieve this goal.”

For more information on today’s hearing, including a background memo, witness testimony, and archived webcast, please click here.

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