FCC votes to waive $400M funding cap on rural telehealth program for FY17

The Federal Communications Commission launched a review of its telehealth-focused Rural Health Care Program Dec. 14.

The Rural Health Care Program provides eligible healthcare providers with funding for broadband and telecommunications services that enhance high-quality care. However, the FCC anticipates demand for the program is likely to exceed its allocated funding, which is capped at $400 million per year.

Under the order adopted by the FCC Dec. 14, the agency waived the Rural Health Care Program's annual funding cap on a one-time basis. The agency instructed the Universal Service Administrative Co. — an independent nonprofit designated by the FCC — to carry over unused program funds from prior years for use in fiscal year 2017, which runs through June 30, 2018.

The FCC is also seeking public comments on whether to permanently increase the Rural Health Care Program's $400 million funding cap.

"With a broadband connection, healthcare providers in small-town America can deliver the same quality of healthcare as those in our nation's big cities," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who released the proposal to increase program funding Nov. 22. "The FCC can and does promote this potential."

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