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Nebraska healthcare network to get fiber optic connectivity

By Max Burkhalter
December 10, 2010
The Fiberutilities Group recently announced that it attained a federal funding commitment letter to help deploy a $20 million fiber optic medical network in Nebraska. The Rural Nebraska Healthcare Network chose the Fiberutilities Group to coordinate the project. Its roles will include planning, financing and operating the project.

The group led the funding drive for the fiber optic project. Funds were raised through the Rural Health Care Pilot Program, launched by the Federal Communications Commission. The program’s goal was to connect nine primary care hospitals and dozens of clinics in Western Nebraska with fiber optic cable. The company says the proposed network will be “one of the most advanced and robust medical technology networks in Nebraska.”

The project received federal approval through the Universal Services Administration Corporation after almost two years of planning.

"This is exactly the sort of project at which Fiberutilities Group excels," said Kent Van Metre, vice president of Fiberutilities Group. "Working with the federal agencies and partnering with community-based healthcare organizations in order to create private fiber networks is our core business."

Fiberutilities president Scot Eberle said the funding initiatives will fund a vital development for local healtcare providers. "Various federal funding initiatives have enabled healthcare providers to vastly improve access to quality medical services in remote areas of the country," he said. "The management of these projects can, however, be extremely complex. We are pleased to play a central role in delivering the benefits of these technologies to previously under-served communities."

When completed, the fiber optic cable network will span 750 miles across 12 counties. The project broke ground in November at the Regional West Medical Center, an RNHN member facility in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. It has a planned completion date of fall 2011.

“This fiber network will facilitate the deployment of advanced medical technologies, and vastly improve patient care and physician communication,” said Lisa Bewley, chief information officer for Regional West.

The fiber optic project is one of several serving rural communities in the U.S. Recently, Time Warner launched a project to provide fiber optic connectivity to rural areas in Maine. The project is being funded entirely with private money and is part of a $220 million investment by the company in fiber optic development in Maine.


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