FCC Digs Deep to Help Fight the Pandemic

April 1st, 2020 by · 3 Comments

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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Categories: Government Regulations · Healthcare

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3 Comments So Far

  • Rog says:

    I think this pandemic should re-raise the question of broadband as a utility. Seems that it’s more and more a requirement to have a broadband connection at home for work, school, health etc. It’s not just a luxury to watch Netflix anymore and at least for the moment, you can’t do everything on your cell phone. Thoughts?

    • Rob Powell says:

      The importance of that connectivity has certainly been demonstrated. But I have to say that overall I am proud of how well the infrastructure has held up. This same overall scenario could easily have led to mass outages, bandwidth limitations, and long repair times. None of that has really happened. Wherever you put the credit – private sector plans, public policies, corporations, individuals, nonprofits, or all of the above – so far that credit is deserved. Of course, it’s not over yet…

      • Rog says:

        Absolutely Agree. Things have held up well for those who have access to broadband. I never realized how many people didn’t have access to broadband at home until home-schooling started and seeing the results of the local school districts technology surveys.

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