Ajit Pai, Newton Minow, Team to Promote Telehealth

Current Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai teamed with iconic former Democratic Chairman Newton Minow on an op-ed Monday (May 21) to promote telehealth, uniting two ends of the political spectrum in an effort to help "heal" the digital divide.

"While the benefits of digital health care are clear, we’ve been too slow to embrace its potential," they wrote in the Boston Globe. "According to a recent white paper, fewer than one in five Americans regularly benefit from telehealth services. It’s time we integrated communications technology into our health care system just as fully as we have in other parts of our lives.

The piece promotes closing the digital divide as a way to ensure that quality healthcare. "A concerted push to seize the untapped potential of telemedicine could help us tackle today’s health challenges," they wrote.

Related: Minow Gets Presidential Medal

Pai is currently on a four-state road trip--Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia--to promote the value of connectivity and the need to close that digital divide, including a stop at Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital--the school has a top-flight medical program--to talk telehealth.

Minow was John F. Kennedy's FCC chair (1961-63), famously calling broadcasters to the angels of their better programming natures in a National Association of Broadcasters address that became known as the "Vast Wasteland" speech. Pai is a conservative Republican noted for his deregulatory "weed whacker," but on this issue they were on the same page, literally.

"Both of us have different perspectives and may disagree on many issues and policies at the FCC," they understated. "But on the importance of developing telemedicine, we share the same determination to move forward. Recent advances in communications technology could enable millions of Americans to live healthier, longer lives. Achieving that result requires forward-thinking policies on telemedicine. We’re firmly committed to helping America adopt those policies and bringing our health care system more fully into the digital age. 

"As President Kennedy said, we 'refuse to see this country, and all of us, shrink from these struggles which are our responsibility in our time.'"

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.