Yesterday, the Commission announced its final round of support from our COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which has awarded nearly $450 million to enable the expanded use of telemedicine by community health centers, mental health clinics, non-profit hospital systems, and other providers across the country. With studies showing a more than 20-fold increase in the use of telemedicine since the start of the pandemic, the undeniable truth is that healthcare has changed permanently over the past two years, and telemedicine is here to stay. The Commission’s February meeting will be headlined by an effort to bolster the Commission’s support for digital health solutions as we move beyond the pandemic. Here’s everything that we’ve got lined up:
- We’re improving access to healthcare in rural America. Reliable high-speed connectivity is critical for rural health care providers to serve patients in areas that often have limited resources and fewer doctors than urban areas. The Commission’s Rural Health Care Program provides vital support to assist rural health care providers with the costs of broadband and other communications services. The Commission will consider changes to improve the efficiency of this program’s administration and to make sure its investments are better targeted to maximize their impact.
- We’re helping overcharged customers get the refunds they deserve. From 2018 to 2019, Aureon Network Services charged unlawfully high rates to handle interstate phone traffic in Iowa. The Commission will vote on an item that would direct Aureon to submit data that will enable the Commission to calculate the refunds it owes its customers who paid the unlawful rate.
- We’re cleaning up our broadcast radio rules. The Commission’s current rules for full-power and translator radio stations contain a number of provisions that are redundant, outdated, or in conflict with other rules. Last July we proposed several changes to update and clean up those provisions, and this month we will finalize those changes in order to reduce any potential confusion, alleviate unnecessary burdens, and make sure our rules reflect the latest technical requirements.
- We will also consider an item from our Enforcement Bureau.