Preventive Medicine for Healthcare Networks: The Importance of Last-Mile Diversity


In support of their business continuity and regulatory compliance plans, healthcare providers try—as the proverb advises—to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.

Recognizing the critical role of last-mile connectivity and always-available Internet access, proactive healthcare organizations utilize redundant connections from multiple service providers. Despite the good intentions, their Internet connectivity may still be at risk. That is because Internet service providers (ISPs) and competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) may operate using leased infrastructure from the same incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC). When the ILEC network fails, so do the services of alternative providers utilizing the same network.

Internet service outages may result from myriad causes: from sabotage, natural disasters or terrorist attacks, to unexpected utility line cuts and regularly scheduled network repairs, as well as equipment or application software failures. Additionally, IP network configuration errors, hacker attacks or congestion can severely degrade Internet services, undermining service availability. Whatever the cause, when the flow of Internet data stops, healthcare services do too.

In addition to lost productivity and revenue from work stoppages, healthcare providers are at risk for noncompliance with the federal regulations defined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Willful neglect of these federal rules can result in severe fines for healthcare providers.

Increasingly, healthcare organizations are turning to cable providers to ensure business continuity. Cable’s infrastructure is physically separate from the telephone company networks at the local last mile, metro and regional levels, enabling genuine network redundancy and diversity. Additionally, by owning and operating their networks and construction teams, cable operators may more quickly provision and better monitor services than can CLECs or ISPs that merely resell ILEC capacity.

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