Cordova hospital averts loss of internet access

Photo courtesy MGN Online Image Id: 353462<br />11/22/2016
Photo courtesy MGN Online Image Id: 353462<br />11/22/2016(KMVT)
Published: Jul. 1, 2018 at 4:47 PM AKDT
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Cordova Community Medical Center will stay up and running after a loss of federal funding threatened to cut the hospital’s internet access starting Sunday.

All of the hospital’s medical records and long-term care services require internet access, meaning, without connectivity the hospital would likely have been unable to function.

According to Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Association CEO Becky Hultberg, the dilemma began in March when the Federal Communications Commission made cuts to the Rural Healthcare Fund, a program that subsidized the cost of the Cordova hospital’s internet service.

“That fund had not been indexed to inflation, and essentially this year it ran out of money,” explained Hultberg.

The loss of federal funding left the hospital with close to a million dollars owed to its internet service provider Alaska Communications. In a May letter, the telecommunications company said the hospital’s internet service would be cut off if the bill was not paid by July 1.

“Alaska Communications believes in your mission and has endeavored to continue to provide you with service throughout this extraordinary delay,” the company wrote in the letter.

“In fact, despite not receiving payment for your telecommunications services, Alaska Communications has used its own cash to pay third parties to keep you in service – at the cost of reducing our workforce and reducing employee compensation. We cannot sustain our business this way.”

Hultberg says the hospital was able to come up with a back-up plan to maintain its internet connectivity. The hospital’s CEO was not immediately available Sunday to comment on the specifics of that plan, but Hultberg says the FCC is also revisiting the proposed cuts.

“The good news is that the FCC in the last couple of weeks has decided to index that fund to inflation and to raise the amount of money available in the fund, so the bigger long term issue that prompted this whole situation is being resolved,” she said.

“However, the FCC is still reviewing the rates with Alaska carriers, and so to my knowledge those carriers have still not been paid. So that part of the situation has not yet been resolved and we’re hopeful that review can be completed and that the carriers can get paid and then this program can continue.