tv The Communicators Tina Pidgeon Christopher Dietrich CSPAN July 23, 2018 8:01am-8:30am EDT
in 1979 c-span was created as public service to america's cable television companies in today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court in public policy events in washington dc and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> is part of c-span's alaska weekend here on "the communicators" we thought we would look at the tech and communication issues faced by our 49th state. join us from anchorage is teniaa pidgeon who works at gci. what is gci? >> gci is a telecommunications technology company that serves statewide in alaska and we have been serving the state since the
late 70s. we are founded on the principles of using innovation and competition to deliver services as broadly and deeply as possible proud alaska. >> who are rob duncan and rob and how did they get started and what was her vision? >> ron duncan who is also our current ceo and bob are the founder of the company. ron and bob had a vision that they could deliver better services to alaska by investing in technology and at that tim time -- in the late 70s, long-distance services that customer experience especially in rural alaska were very expensive and not a particularly high quality. they believed they could improve
the service and deliver rural alaskans a better experience and eventually serves statewide so they literally are the original entrepreneurs, two guys at a garage with a great idea making a difference for the people they invested into serve. >> host: gci is now the largest telex medications company in alaska, correct? >> that is correct. we served the most locations. we serve very many people and we do it using pretty much all the technology tools in the toolbox that i think that any company could use. >> host: what are the challenges given your geography, location, whether et cetera? >> guest: we like to say that we recognize there are challenges serving rural communities everywhere and in alaska we take those challenges to a different level. we have over 200 communities throughout the state and they
are separated in distance by literally hundreds and thousands of miles sometimes. low population, rugged terrain, in alaska we are part of the united states arctic and so we also have significant issues to deal with in terms of weather, difficult to reach places, short construction seasons, high winds, low temperatures basically whatever we deploy almost any technology in rural alaska we are taking something out of the test space where it typically was considered to be deployed in making it do things that no one imagined it would do. those combinations make it a difficult area to serve but the technology and innovation it is possible to deliver services through out the state of alaska.
the more urban locations like anchorage to some of the rural locations that i think exist in the united states and beyond. >> host: tina, what are some of the innovations that gci has come up with? >> guest: we had to be innovative in terms of meeting the challenges that provide service in alaska really brings to us. most recently, overcoming those challenges has been necessary to deliver both broadband and wireless services as deeply and broadly throughout the state as he possibly could. i have examples in both of those areas. on the bottom inside, in alaska we have a low population only about 700,000 people who live in an area that is twice the size of the state of texas. to reach this communities there is space, not necessarily between individual people, which
you often see in rural american in the lower 48, as we called the continental united states, but there are communities dispersed where the people are located close together but there's distance between the communities. to deliver a viable broadband service we have had to innovate to be able to essentially bring communication as much as we can from the sky off the satellites and onto the ground for future services to connect the communities and connect them back to the internet hub. we built a one-of-a-kind combination microwave and fiber network system that now brings terrestrial level regular broadband services to about 84 communities throughout alaska. we've deployed my gray service in a way to deliver those transport between the communities and back to the
internet in a way that is not typically seen in the rest of the country and not many other places in the world. on the wireless side one of the things we've done recently is take technology that i believe was originally innovative by to offer military services and hard-to-reach places and to foster connectivity. that is use lighting satellite over lte. we've deployed that service in a number of our satellite search communities. one we have not connected yet to terrestrial network in a still satellite-based but by being in delivering lte -based services over satellite we can provide better connectivity, wireless services and a higher level data services to the people in the community. >> host: because of the challenges that you face alaska what can we in the lower 48 learn from you? >> guest: that is a good question. in terms of learning from what
we've done, i think there are definitely lessons that can be taken away. i always think what did it take for us to be able to meet and conquer those challenges. it requires innovation. it requires, not necessarily, sticking with the same technology or in the same way but taking technology to the next level and innovate and not be afraid of replacing the old system and it is required an open, competitive market for all the services that gci offers we provide wireless service, internet service, video service, plain old local phone service, although that is diminishing, but we do that using every technology that is available.
we could not have gotten to the market if it wasn't competitive entry. back in the first days when ron duncan and bob were starting gci we had to fight to get into the long-distance service. we fought a battle similar to mci back in the day we were gci doing here in alaska. learning from those lessons of entering the competition is positive for services for driving innovation and lowering cost is really something that we always have to keep at the forefront. finally, stability. it will not be able to deliver the services we do throughout rural alaska without the programs that have been available and administered by the fcc and other parts of the government. we really take -- we believe
responsibly to use the funding wisely for the purposes which it was intended , too deliver services for as many communities and residents throughout alaska as he possibly can. to be able to make plans and take advantage of economics and deliver efficient services those programs need to be stable and predictable or else it's difficult to bring the private investment alongside that is unleashed by theirs programs. if we don't know what will happen in the near future or even in the midterm, as well. certainly, programs change but as much stability as possible really helps us bring along the private investment alongside that is necessary to take the different cases a new technology that drive it deeper into citizens so we can reach that broadband divide that many experience and we have to overcome to have everybody have the same opportunities and get
similar benefits of operating in the digital world. it is moving fast and we all want to be part of it. >> host: let's break that answer down. talk about open, competitive markets. who is gci's competition now that you're the biggest company in alaska and telecommute occasions? >> guest: we have plenty of competition and that competition is what keeps us fresh. depending on which service you are talking about the competitors might differ and also which are across communities. generally speaking there is an incumbent local exchange carrier who provide services throughout the state we compete with mama both in the traditional telecom space as well as customers and broadband services.
if you look at the wireless perspective we experience competition, not only from local providers but from national providers, like verizon and at&t. in that way in communities and there are some really may be the only provider we provide a statewide, wireless plans and services. that means the competition that even verizon and at&t experience nationwide and as they evolved their niche markets to respond to that competition is brought appear to alaska as well. in our meeting we hopefully will be back competition and statewide our statewide plans are benefiting and communities and even if we don't have a direct competitor those customers also benefit from the effect of that competition. finally, on the video space we have local competitive video providers and the major
satellite-based video providers for competitors of ours are well. lots of competition to go around. >> host: imagine traditional phone service is dropping in alaska. are using cord cutting at the same rate that other larger communities are seen? >> we are experiencing people wanting to have the best services that they can and customers who really want choice of all flavors. certainly, the trends you see nationally, where you experience here in alaska as well. alaska consumers are no different than consumers elsewhere in terms of what they want. >> host: finally, from that first answer you talked about stability and fcc programs, what specifically are you referring to? >> guest: here in alaska there are a suite of universal service programs that make it possible
for companies like ours and other competitors throughout the state to deliver the services to the hardest reached rural communities. the combination of the services and those support programs whether it's the high cost programs which often sport both local and wide services in rural communities to the rural health care program that supports services to our rural health care coverage which are very much an important part of delivery delivering tele- health to and education throughout alaska. those two programs, in particular, are important to support investment into those types of entities for the anchor tenants, especially in small committees.
it makes it possible to make the investment not only to bring the services to those anchor tenants but also supports our ability to drive services were deeply to the other consumers and residents living in those communities. having those programs on a stable footing is important to be able to plan on investments for the future, not only in updating technologies that are present but also in reaching communities that may be don't have that level of service tod today. >> host: are you fighting the current fcc is amenable to your needs? >> guest: there is always the stations about ensuring that the right balance, i guess, a leading ours or more importantly our customers needs and meeting the needs of the fcc of ensuring that programs are being used in the way they are intended in delivering the best services
possible for the long periods of time. to the extent that they is a constant dialogue between participants in those programs and the regulators of this programs, then, yes, that dialogue is going well and i expect it to continue and evolve over time. >> host: prior to joining gci is general counsel and senior president, she was the vice president of regulatory affairs for that company here in washington dc. tina pigeon, what's your view of washington now that you are further away? >> guest: i'm glad my experience went along the path that it did which was to have the opportunity to work and experience washington dc and being able to take that experience back here to the company here in anchorage and over time i would say obviously
participants change in players change in dc but what i see especially in the telecommunication space is that the important thing is to continue to have conversations in open minds and keep the public interest at the forefront. no matter what the change i think navigating with those things in mind has really served me in this committee while and is always means i enjoy getting to washington dc and we can get a lot done in advancing the business bringing broadband services is deeply about the state as possible. it's a shared mission and i think navigating between anchorage alaska in washington dc is not that hard to keep that in mind. >> host: john malone, a well-known name and telecommute occasions, recently purchased gci.
has that changed your mission at all? >> guest: no, it hasn't. for us, at gci, this is really a full circle transaction. mr. malone, doctor malone, was an early partner in gci and the beginning. we are happy where we are right now and expect great partnerships to continue. >> host: finally, tina pidgeon, we talk about tele- education and telehealth so those are fast-growing fields, are they? >> guest: yes, both of those are tremendously fast-growing fields that i think they are great examples of that old adage that necessity is the mother of invention. here in alaska we have been at the front edge of telehealth, tele- education and really it is
out of necessity. many of our small committees there is not the ability to foster and sometimes there is no doctor at community health aides were delivering care to the residents and when an emergency comes their way in alaska and communities, they have utilized telemedicine for years to be able to bring parties and communities to improve the quality of healthcare and health in their communities. a reduced cost over time to minimizing unnecessary and expensive and sometimes risky flights from a distant community to a location where maybe you could get the extra treatment was needed. that's been a huge benefit for alaskan telemedicine. same on the education front. many of our spiral, rural villages have a single school where the go to school. that means that you might only
have one or two or three teachers. in many school districts they been able to locate more expert teachers and what they can do share those resources by using distance-learning and utilizing the underlying broadband to improve the resources and improve the quality of education. there is plenty of innovation to come in utilizing those tools but it's an important part of delivering those necessity services for citizens and communities in rural alaska. >> host: here in alaska weekend in c-span were joined by tina pidgeon, senior vice president of gci. thank you for your time. >> guest: thank you so much, peter. i appreciate c-span focusing alaska. folks love what they see here.
>> host: as we continue to look at telecommute occasions in alaska, joining us from anchorage via skype is doctor christopher dietrich. doctor dietrich, how is telemedicine used in the state of alaska? >> guest: i'm a physician assistant so my scope is similar to what a physician would be but different types of training so generally i go by pa dietrich but our capacity telemedicine is allowing us to get to rural alaska and those who are not normally have psychiatry services. our clinic retreat anywhere from the age of three-25 and behavioral health services and psychological counseling services, too. many times we go to communities that if we were and they are providing that service there were not anybody else. psychiatric practice in the
country is huge and there are unquoted figures about 93% shortage of psychiatric prescribers in the entire country so we look at that number alaska i would imagine it's even higher. this allows us to bridge to make that care connection that otherwise might not be there. >> host: from the patients you see on a regular basis via telemedicine? >> guest: i would say about 50% of my work week is telemedicine. at least 30 or 40 patients a week. >> host: what is the downside to medicating with the patient via skype or another service? >> guest: definitely, making that first connection and getting the patient engaged is important. the way we try to mitigate that when we can is to have a face to face visit to establish care. it doesn't necessarily need to
be required in all cases but it is an important way to make that connection or at some point we have our patients in the fly to the anchorage area or we fight to them. i've fly to fairbanks or southeast alaska like sitka and alaska -- it ranges so were talking hundreds of miles and hour long flights so it's not quite simple but that is where the telemedicine comes in. it saves costs for the state and saving cost to travel. instead of having to do that travel time they are able to get the care telemedicine. i think that alone is a huge savings major of the patients have that care connection as a part of that. of course, giving people away from hostile services like us being there prior to conditions
getting worse where they have to be hospitalized. >> host: christopher dietrich, if you wanted to see a patient in no more sitka and you're in anchorage, where does that patient go? is he or she able to do this from their home? >> guest: yes, they download a similar app like skype and they could initiate care via their hub but sometimes we will have them go to their local clinics and that way they get basic vital signs and have more formality there but it's not always the case or needed. >> host: is it easier for you, as someone who works on mental health issues, rather than a physician or someone who would work physically treat the patient? >> guest: yeah, i mean, for us the psychiatrist are in the
office and there's a multitude of pas the work for our agency but this is exactly one of the best uses for telemedicine in psychiatric services because of physical exam and component is limited to us. i still see the purpose of telemedicine without that physical exam for essential care questions that may give guidance that someone should go to. >> host: your president-elect of the alaska collaborative for telemedicine and telehealth -- what is that? >> guest: is an organization of a multitude of people that are stakeholders into trying to grow in at least allow more potential legislative than helping our ability to provide care with
multitude of different providers within the group, medical providers, psychologist, therapist and agencies in the state system and part of that education and getting that education out to our state legislators also part of it is monitoring what things are quickly changing because what state legislators have an insurance agencies are doing that maybe, getting things or allowing us to grow the field and that is what we do. we collectively have that engagement. every month or couple months as well as our social media presence trying to make sure people get out telemedicine. >> host: is a state a part of this, insurance colonies, do they encourage it as well? >> they are not a direct part of this. neither are the agencies. we are the ones that are monitoring what they are doing
to see how it will apply to our different entities and what changes we have to do for what should be advocating for. >> host: has alaska been at the forefront of this telemedicine movement? >> guest: i think so. i think greatly with the providers shortage that we have here is the barriers that exist for care in remote locations, i would say yeah, we are. there are components with our state system to make it more compensated but hopefully we are changing as time goes and part of that is a face-to-face exam. in a variety of situations you have to have that face-to-face exam but other states but the state of washington have allowed more pro- telemedicine where the basic exam can be established via telemedicine and all of the practitioners need to establish the things they do no matter what.
if you provide the care in doing so means that that visit isn't able to get you all the answers you need then get that person into the office or need to get into an office somewhere. >> host: christopher dietrich, physicians assistant with the orion behavioral health network. he's the president-elect of the alaska collaborative for telemedicine and tell and help. thank you. >> guest: thank you. >> if you'd like to see more of c-span's communicative programs to c-span .org and look under the series link on the homepage. >> c-span where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's television company. today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court in public policy events in washington dc and around the
country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> lisa murkowski, senator for alaska, becoming a number of issues. >> host: senator lisa murkowski of alaska, not to any third generation alaskans around, are there? >> guest: there are getting more and more. we are contributing with that fourth generation. hopefully my two boys will want to plant roots in the state. yeah, it is something i'm quite proud of. i love my state. i love my family's history the there. >> host: what brought you great parents to alaska? >> guest: on my dad side the story goes that everybody wanted to come up for the