FCC subsidies advance rural eHealth program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just unveiled a test program that will subsidize statewide and regional broadband networks for the delivery of healthcare services--with an emphasis on telemedicine--in rural parts of the country. The two-year program, which could eclipse $60 million a year, is an outgrowth of the FCC's rural health care funding program, which is financed by the Universal Service Fee that long-distance telephone companies pay to help defray residential basic phone service. The FCC will pay up to 85 percent of the costs to deploy networks and connect the new networks to Internet2, a nationwide backbone linking universities and research centers. The rural healthcare funding program, which subsidizes phone and Internet service for public and nonprofit health care providers in rural areas, is consistently underused. "Although the commission has allotted $400 million a year for this fund, only about 10 percent of this amount is ever used," said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. The commission has been trying to increase use of the program. The new program could lead to changes in the existing rural subsidy program, commission officials said.

For more:
- read this GovernmentHealthIT report