The Healthcare Connect Fund
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) administers the Healthcare Connect Fund, which directs up to $400 million annually from the Universal Service Fund toward supporting high capacity broadband services, designed to bring the benefits of telehealth to areas of the country in acute need of those services. Of that funding, $50 million will be allocated to skilled nursing facilities’ pilot programs.
Prior to the Healthcare Connect Fund
The Healthcare Connect Fund was born out of the Rural Health Care Pilot Program. This pilot program was established in 2006 to help equalize the “urban-rural” difference and bring telehealth services to the under-subscribed. This program provided an 85 percent flat subsidy to participating health care providers (HCPs) for the purchase of network equipment, long-term leases and Indefeasible Rights of Use (IRUs), construction of state or regional health care broadband networks, and recurring services. Urban HCPs were able to participate, if part of a consortium with rural HCPs.
As of December 2012, there were 50 active pilot projects under this program, covering 38 states and ranging in size from 4 to 477 HCPs. On July 9, 2012, the FCC extended the pilot program funding on a temporary basis for pilot project participants, who exhausted the pilot funding by the end of the funding year, June 30, 2013. Funding under the Healthcare Connect Fund became available for pilot participants on July 1, 2013.
The Healthcare Connect Fund also replaced the FCC’s Rural Healthcare Internet Access Program. That program was created in 2003 by the FCC to enhance access to advanced telecommunications and information services for public and nonprofit HCPs. It provided a 25 percent discount off the cost of monthly internet access for eligible rural HCPs. The replacement Healthcare Connect Fund provides support for services traditionally provided through the Internet Access Program, including DSL, cable modem and other similar forms of Internet access. For more detailed information, visit: http://www.fcc.gov/connecting-america.
For more information please see the CCHP Healthcare Connect Fund Fact Sheet.