Summary of FCC RHC Programs
Summary of FCC’s Rural Health Care ProgramThe Rural Health Care Program, which includes the new Healthcare Connect Fund,
provides funding to eligible health care providers (HCPs) for telecommunications and
broadband services necessary for the provision of health care. The goal of the program is
to improve the quality of health care available to patients in rural communities by
ensuring that eligible HCPs have access to telecommunications and broadband services.
Funding for the Rural Health Care Program is capped at $400 million annually.
The Rural Health Care Program is currently made up of four programs: the new
Healthcare Connect Fund, the Telecommunications Program, the Internet Access
Program, and the Rural Health Care Pilot Program.
THE HEALTHCARE CONNECT FUNDBuilding on lessons learned from the Pilot Program, in December 2012 the Commission
released a Report and Order that created the Healthcare Connect Fund, which will
reform, expand, and modernize the Rural Health Care Program.
The Healthcare Connect Fund provides support for high-capacity broadband
connectivity to eligible health care providers (HCPs) and encourages the
formation of state and regional broadband HCP networks.
Under the program, eligible rural HCPs, and those non-rural HCPs that are
members of a consortium that has more than 50 percent rural HCP sites, will be
able to receive a 65 percent discount on all eligible expenses.
Eligible expenses include broadband services and equipment, and, for consortium
applicants, HCP-constructed and owned network facilities.
The order also establishes a new pilot program to test how to support broadband
connections for skilled nursing facilities.
Highlights of the Healthcare Connect Fund Eligible HCPs. The new program provides support to:
o Consortia of eligible rural and non-rural public/non-profit HCPs, and
o Individual rural public/non-profit HCPs.
Limitations on Non-rural HCP Participation. Non-rural HCPs are eligible for
support only if they belong to a consortium that has more than 50 percent rural
HCP sites. Support for non-rural hospitals with 400+ beds is capped at $30,000
annually for recurring charges and $70,000 over a five-year period for non-
Eligible Expenses. Eligible HCPs may seek support for broadband services,
network equipment, and (for consortium applicants) HCP-constructed and owned
network facilities. Only consortium applicants are eligible for upfront payments.
Off-site Data Centers and Off-site Administrative Offices. The new program
provides support to HCPs for connections and network equipment associated with
off-site data centers and off-site administrative offices.
Eligible Vendors. Eligible vendors include any provider of equipment, facilities,
or services that are eligible for support.
Discount Rate. The new program provides a 65 percent flat-rate discount on all
o The application process minimizes the administrative burden on
participants while still protecting against waste, fraud, and abuse.
o Consortium applicants may file a single application.
o Program administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company
Multi-year Commitments. Applicants may seek a multi-year funding
commitment for up to 3 years, thus avoiding the annual application filing
Competitive bidding process exemptions.
o Annual undiscounted cost of $10,000 or less
o Government Master Services Agreements (MSAs)
o MSAs approved under Rural Health Care (RHC) Pilot Program or
Healthcare Connect Fund
o “Evergreen” contracts
o Contracts negotiated under USF Schools & Libraries Program
o Starting July 1, 2013, support will be available for existing Pilot projects.
o Starting January 1, 2014, support will be available for new consortia and
individual HCP participants. Competitive bidding process may start in
late summer 2013.
Skilled Nursing Facility Pilot Program.
o Purpose. The pilot will test how to support broadband connections for
skilled nursing facilities.
o Timing. The FCC will solicit input regarding design of the pilot program
in 2013. The pilot will get underway in 2014.
o Size. Funding for the pilot is limited to $50 million in total support for all
projects combined, spread over 3 years.
THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INTERNET ACCESS PROGRAMSEstablished in 1997, the Telecommunications Program ensures that eligible rural HCPs
pay no more than their urban counterparts for telecommunications services. Through this
program, eligible rural HCPs can obtain rates for supported services that are no higher
than the highest tariffed or publicly available commercial rate for a similar service in the
closest city in the state with a population of 50,000 or more people, taking distance
charges into account. The Internet Access Program, which the Commission created in
2003, provides eligible rural HCPs a 25 percent discount off the cost of monthly Internet
access for eligible rural HCPs. This program will not be available after June 30, 2014;
current recipients may instead seek support from the Healthcare Connect Fund.
THE RURAL HEALTH CARE PILOT PROGRAMThe Commission established a three-year Rural Health Care Pilot Program in September
2006 to provide funding for state or regional broadband networks designed to bring the
benefits of telehealth and telemedicine services to areas of the country where the need for
those benefits was most acute. The Pilot Program provided funding for up to 85%
percent of the costs associated with: (1) the construction of a state or regional broadband
network and the advanced telecommunications and information services provided over
that network; (2) connecting to Internet2 or National LambdaRail; and (3) connecting to
the public Internet. There are currently 50 active Pilot Projects in 38 states. This
program is closed to new applicants. A list of the selected projects is available at
http://www.usac.org/rhcp/about/participants.aspx">http://www.usac.org/rhcp/about/participants.aspx, and a map of the currently active
projects is available ahttps://www.fcc.gov/maps/rural-health-care-pilot-program">t https://www.fcc.gov/maps/rural-health-care-pilot-program.
In 2012, the Wireline Competition Bureau released a staff evaluation of the Pilot
Program, which summarized key observations from the Pilot Program and described the
Pilot Projects, their broadband networks, and the financial and telehealth benefits
generated by their broadband connectivityhttps://www.fcc.gov/document/rural-health-care-pilot-program-evaluation-staff-report">. https://www.fcc.gov/document/rural-health-
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