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Now called the Health Care Connect Fund

Derived From: FCC Health Care Initiative

"The FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) oversees the Health Care Connect Fund, the Rural Health Care Telecommunications and Internet Access Programs, and the Rural Health Care Pilot Program. The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), under WCB oversight, administers the day-to-day operations of these programs. The FCC's Health Care Connect Fund order is available via download here:

"In 2012, the FCC established the Health Care Connect Fund to expand health care provider (HCP) access to broadband, especially in rural areas, and encourage the creation of state and regional broadband health care networks. Building on the success of the Rural Health Care Pilot Program (see below), the Health Care Connect Fund provides support to eligible public and not-for-profit HCPs for the cost of broadband services or facilities that they use for health care purposes. The Health Care Connect Fund also permits HCPs to receive support for constructing and owning broadband infrastructure. The Health Care Connect Fund encourages HCPs to organize into consortia to reap the benefits of network participation, including higher bandwidth and better quality connections at lower rates than those generally available to individual HCPs, though it also allows individual rural HCPs to participate. The existing Internet Access and Rural Health Care Pilot programs (see below) ultimately will be transitioned into the Health Care Connect Fund.

"In the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Congress directed the FCC to provide rural HCPs with “an affordable rate for the services necessary for the provision of telemedicine and instruction relating to such services.” In 1997, the FCC established the Rural Health Care Telecommunications program to ensure that rural HCPs paid no more than their urban counterparts for their telecommunications needs. In 2003, the FCC added the Rural Health Care Internet Access program to provide a 25% discount off the cost of monthly Internet access. These two programs together are called the Rural Health Care Primary Program.

"In 2006, the FCC established the Rural Health Care Pilot Program to support state and regional broadband networks designed to bring the benefits of telemedicine and telehealth services to areas of the country where they were most needed. The Pilot program was specifically intended to provide the FCC with more information on how to best support a nationwide broadband health network, so that it could reform the overall Rural Health Care Primary Program. In 2012, WCB issued a Staff Report finding that the Pilot Program has, among other things, fostered the creation and extension of broadband networks of HCPs throughout the country; demonstrated the cost savings, relative administrative simplicity, and network-facilitating value of a consortium approach; and shown that supporting non-rural HCPs yields many benefits, including project leadership, administrative and technical resources, and access to medical specialists through telemedicine. The Pilot Program is closed to new applicants. HCPs and consortia will be able to participate in the new Health Care Connect Fund, when it becomes effective, or in the existing Telecommunications and Internet Access Programs".




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