In an effort to enhance telecommunications services to healthcare facilities in rural areas, the Federal Communications Commission introduced yesterday a new healthcare connectivity program that would expand investment in broadband for medically underserved communities across the country.
The program would improve medical care, reduce healthcare costs, create jobs and spur private investment in networks for patients in rural areas.
“In the 21st century, high-quality health care depends on broadband connectivity,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “These are clinics at the farthest reaches of the United States, and in the center; in small town Appalachia, in the great Northwest plains, in the vast deserts of the Southwest, and in virtually every region of our country.”
The program would invest up to $400 million annually to deliver this communications technology.
According to an FCC press release, “It is one of four programs in the Universal Service Fund administered by the FCC. Without increasing the projected size of the overall fund, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted today would bring affordable broadband connectivity to more than 2,000 rural hospitals and clinics.”
As part of the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan, the program plans to partner with public and nonprofit healthcare providers to invest in new regional and statewide broadband networks in parts of the country where it is unavailable or insufficient, make broadband connectivity more affordable and deliver connectivity to areas in the United States where it is needed.
“This program has the potential to do for rural health care providers and patients what the enormously successful E-Rate program has done for schools and students,” according to a statement put out by the FCC.