FCC Rural Health Initiative Expanded

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced today a funding increase to support rural healthcare providers in the United States. The Universal Service Administrative Company, which operates the FCC’s Rural Healthcare Program, was charged by the Wireline Competition Bureau with reprocessing up to $197 million in unused funds from previous years to satisfy its needs for the 2020 funding year.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained the various adjustments to the program’s benefit, including modifying the funding cap to account for inflation. “In 2018, the FCC took swift action to ensure that the Rural Health Care Program better reflected the needs of and advances in connected care. Looking to the future, we gave providers more certainty by adjusting the cap annually for inflation and allowing unused funds from previous years to be carried forward,” said Pai. “And now, more than ever, our foresight is fortuitous, as telehealth is proving to be critical in our fight against COVID-19. Today’s announcement speaks to the FCC’s commitment to ensuring that rural health care providers can continue to serve their communities during this difficult time and well into the future.”

According to a press release, health care providers have requested extra funding for high-speed broadband in recent years but have “outpaced the funding cap.” This strained the Program’s ability to provide more accessible broadband to healthcare providers, “particularly in rural areas.” The 2020 funding year’s cap was originally set to $604.76 million, though after today’s announcement, “the total amount of support available to eligible health care providers…will be $802.74 million, the most in the Program’s history.”