Just when you think all the FCC does is have meetings and tell others what they can and can’t do, they come up with some actual money. In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC under chairman Ajit Pai has announced a $200M plan for Telehealth support.
It’s done under the CARES act, and is aimed at supporting health care providers who need to purchase the bandwidth, software, and devices needed to serve patients remotely. Never have the benefits of telehealth been more obvious, as so many of us shelter in place to slow down the spread of this coronavirus. Each time health needs are satisfied without a visit to a doctor’s waiting room or hospital or whatever is a possible infection averted.
The funds aren’t infinite, but the FCC plans to keep the telehealth program going “on a rolling basis until the funds are exhausted or until the current pandemic has ended.” Hopefully should those funds run out, Congress can find a few pennies more in the couch. At least, one hopes they aren’t taking the infrastructure that is keeping us all connected like this entirely for granted.
The FCC is also looking to formalize and extend the Connected Care Pilot Program, which is looking at making healthcare connectivity part of the Universal Service Fund. That would be another $100M of support for healthcare providers’ communications needs, paying for 85% of the eligible costs for selected projects.
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