FCC wants to expand eligibility, subsidies for broadband access at rural health sites

Faced with the perception that its $400 million fund to subsidize Internet services at rural healthcare facilities is underutilized, the Federal Communications Commission is proposing modifications to the National Broadband Plan to expand eligibility and allow the program to pay for a greater share of monthly service.

Commissioners on Thursday voted unanimously to propose allowing the fund to pay for as much as half of monthly broadband access fees at eligible facilities, up from the current 25 percent. They also want to make dialysis centers and other acute-care facilities eligible for subsidies and include administrative offices and data centers in the plan, the Associated Press reports. Additionally, some of the money could go for construction of broadband networks--including wireless service--under the proposal.

According to GigaOM, The FCC cited a Health Affairs study estimating that remote monitoring of just four chronic conditions can save the U.S. health system $197 billion over 25 years. Broadband also could enable more facilities to implement electronic health records, commissioners say.

For more information:
- read this Associated Press story via ABC News
- take a look at this GigaOM item
- download the National Broadband Plan from the FCC (.pdf)
- watch this video of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski discussing the July 15 meeting