[Editor’s note: For local economy to prosper, civil government needs to stop playing capitalist and investor. The problem of malinvestment is unavoidable when the state goes into business because the state never has to rationalize costs. Its role makes calculating the real price of anything — whether Internet service or mechanical pencils. Even worse, commercial government always gives the appearance of putting taxpayers at risk for losses. David Tulis]
A Dayton, Tenn., medical facility is the first link in a $2 million taxpayer-subsidized high-tech chain to connect Tennessee’s metropolitan hospitals with those in rural southwest Tennessee.
This could be an instance of taxpayers subsidizing a service in an area that already exists via the free market.
The link will start in Dayton and connect, via broadband services, with rural hospitals in not only Tennessee but also north Georgia and North Carolina. These areas supposedly lack broadband.
Officials with the Federal Communications Commission awarded the grant, and they consider Dayton, population 7,000, just as rural. They evidently didn’t know that Dayton, in Rhea County, already has private Internet service providers offering those same broadband services.
David Snyder owns one of those ISPs. While he doesn’t necessarily oppose the government setting up broadband in truly rural areas, he is unsure if it’s wise for Dayton and the Rhea Medical Center to benefit. RMC is the county’s only hospital.
“What this all means is that we are out spending more taxpayer dollars to build something — but we can join the already existing connections together for almost no cost,” Snyder says.
“I can understand a subsidy going out to an extremely rural section of Tennessee, maybe one that has dial-up only with a population of only a couple of hundred people. I can see a need there, but in other areas the free market is already taking care of these issues.”
The Chattanooga-based nonprofit BrightBridge applied for what is known as a FCC Rural Health Care Pilot Program on behalf of the Chattanooga-based Erlanger Health System. Erlanger doesn’t appear to have a formal relationship with RMC.
RMC’s CEO, Ken Croom, refuses to discuss the matter.
BrightBridge spokesman Hale Booth tell Tennessee Watchdog the idea is to improve health care in rural areas through telemedicine. “All of that can involve sending X-rays back and forth to a larger area for analysis if you don’t have someone on staff at that time of day or even if you need consultations for a special visit. You can avoid the need for a person to travel 40 miles,” Booth says.
Booth also tells Tennessee Watchdog that Erlanger officials probably can’t jump start their plan without the FCC grant.
Snyder said using free market forces to carry out the plan would benefit Rhea County more.
Laurene Vamprine, Erlanger’s vice president and chief information officer, said in an e-mail she wasn’t sure she was the appropriate person to interview after Tennessee Watchdog contacted her. She hasn’t responded to a follow-up request to put Tennessee Watchdog in touch with another Erlanger representative.
Contact Christopher Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit Tennessee Watchdog.