Below is a list of potential federal funding sources for telecommunications and broadband services for eligible health care providers, beginning with the FCC's Rural Health Care Program, and then followed by other potential federal funding sources.
Federal Communications Commission
The Rural Health Care Program (RHC): This program includes the Healthcare Connect Fund and provides funding to eligible health care providers (HCPs) for 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 broadband services.
In June 2018, the FCC announced that they would provide a significant budgetary boost for this program to address immediate and long-term funding shortages driven by growing demand for rural telemedicine services. The FCC increased the annual cap on program spending by nearly 43 percent, to $571 million, which will reverse across-the-board spending cuts for the current funding year imposed by the old cap. These “pro-rata” cuts had created uncertainty and turmoil in the program for patients, health care providers, and communications companies alike. The program’s previous $400 million cap was set in 1997 and was never indexed for inflation. The $171 million increase represents what the funding level would be today had the initial cap included an inflation adjustment.
Looking ahead, the FCC will adjust the cap annually for inflation and allow funds unused from prior years to be carried forward. At the same time, the FCC continues its work on enacting reforms proposed last year to guard against program waste, fraud, and abuse. Read more.
Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF): Created by the FCC in 2012, the Healthcare Connect Fund provides support for broadband connectivity to eligible HCPs and encourages the formation of state and regional broadband networks. Under the HCF Program, eligible HCPs can apply as individual HCPs or as part of a consortium. Individuals HCPs and consortium applicants will be able to receive a 65 percent discount on all eligible services and equipment. Consortium applicants will be able to receive this discount on HCP-constructed and owned network facilities. The application process began in late summer of 2013. View the latest funding information.
Universal Services Administrative Company
The Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) is an independent, not-for-profit corporation designated by the FCC as the administrator of all universal service programs, including the Rural Health Care Program. USAC works to protect the integrity of universal service through information and educating program audiences, collecting and distributing contributions, and promoting program compliance. Information about the Rural Health Care Program, eligibility requirements, application procedures, and training opportunities (including webinars) are available at USAC.org.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
The Distance Learning and Telemedicine(DLT) Grant Program is designed specifically to meet the educational and health-care needs of rural America. Through loans, grants and loan/grant combinations, advanced telecommunications technologies provide enhanced learning and health care opportunities for rural residents. Eligibility: Entities providing education and medical care via telecommunications including corporations or partnerships, Indian tribes or tribal organizations, state or local units of government, consortia, and private for-profit or not-for profit corporations. Individuals are not eligible. More information about the DLT program is available at USDA.gov.
The Community Facility Grants Program provides grants to assist in the development of essential community facilities in rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population. Grants are authorized on a graduated scale. Applicants located in small communities with low populations and low incomes will receive a higher percentage of grants. Eligibility: Grants are available to public entities such as municipalities, counties and special-purpose districts, as well as non-profit corporations and tribal governments. In addition, applicants must have the legal authority necessary for construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed facility and also be unable to obtain needed funds from commercial sources at reasonable rates and terms. Grant funds may be used to assist in the development of essential community facilities. Grant funds can be used to construct, enlarge, or improve community facilities for health care, public safety, and community and public services. This can include the purchase of equipment required for a facility's operation. More information about the Community Programs is available at USDA.gov.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The Affordable Care Act established the Prevention and Public Health Fund to provide expanded and sustained national investments in prevention and public health, to improve health outcomes, and to enhance health care equality. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Fund has invested in a broad range of evidence-based activities including community and clinical prevention initiatives; research surveillance and tracking; public health infrastructure; immunization and screenings; tobacco prevention; and public health workforce and training. More information about the Prevention and Public Health Fund is available at HHS.gov.
Telehealth Grant Programs offers a variety of funding opportunities related to the provision of telehealth services. For example, the Telehealth Network is a competitive grant program that funds projects that demonstrate the use of telehealth networks to improve healthcare services for medically underserved populations in urban, rural, and frontier communities. More information about the HHS's Telehealth Grant Programs are available at HRSA.gov.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Programs
Information and grant announcements from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality for supporting research to improve the quality, effectiveness, accessibility, and cost effectiveness of health care are available at AHRQ.gov.
Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
A variety of grant programs and awards administered by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology are available at HealthIT.gov.
In September 2009, President Obama released his Strategy for American Innovation, calling for agencies to increase their ability to promote and harness innovation by using policy tools such as awards and competitions. The America Competes Act, passed in December 2010, permits any agency head to “carry out a program to award prizes competitively to stimulate innovation.” With this authority, ONC created the Investing in Innovation (“i2”) program. The competitions, also referred to as health IT developer contests, focus on innovations that support (1) the goals of Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) and clearing hurdles related to the achievement of widespread health IT adoption and meaningful use, (2) ONC's and HHS's programs and programmatic goals, and (3) the achievement of a nationwide learning health system that improves quality, safety, and/or efficiency of health care. More information about the ONC challenges are available at HealthIT's Prizes and Challenges webpage.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA makes grant funds available through the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, and the Center for Mental Health Services. Information about funding opportunities that support programs for substance use disorders and mental illness, and learn about the grant application, review, and management process are available at SAMHSA.gov.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC uses grants and cooperative agreements to promote its mission of health promotion and prevention. This includes programs involving laboratory research, health information programs, surveillance, and preparedness. Information about current funding opportunities, application process, and eligibility requirements are available at CDC.gov.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
NIH offers grants for a wide variety of medical and behavioral research-related programs. A description of the programs, the application process, and eligibility requirements are available at NIH.gov.