The FCC has opened a rulemaking proposing reforms to its broadband health care initiatives for rural and tribal areas. The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking originally released in July was published in the Federal Register today, which establishes the deadline for submitting Comments and Reply Comments in the proceeding. Comments in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking are due on September 8, 2010. Reply Comments are due on September 23, 2010.
Chief among the proposals contained in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking are:
• Creating a health infrastructure program that would support up to 85% of the construction costs of new regional and statewide broadband networks serving public and non-profit health care providers where broadband is currently unavailable or insufficient;
• Creating a health care broadband services program that would subsidize 50% of the monthly recurring costs of access to broadband services for eligible public or non-profit rural health care providers; and
• Expanding the class of health care providers eligible to receive these funds to include skilled nursing facilities, renal dialysis centers and facilities, and certain off-site administrative offices and data storage centers that perform support functions for health care providers.
We discussed the details of this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in a recent Client Advisory. Health care providers, as well as rural and tribal communities interested in improving their broadband access for local health care services, should get involved in this proceeding. It is important to provide the FCC with real world examples of the needs and problems faced in providing modern health care services in your community so that those needs are taken into account as the FCC attempts to craft its rural health care initiative.