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Mar 15 -- The Federal Communications Commission (Commission) seeks comment on revisions to the Rural Health Care Telecommunications (Telecom) Program rules to ensure that rural healthcare providers receive funding necessary to access the broadband and telecommunications services necessary to provide vital healthcare services; proposes to modify the applicability of the internal funding cap on upfront costs and multi-year commitments in the Rural Health Care Healthcare Connect Fund Program, proposes to streamline the invoice process in the Telecom Program, and seeks comment on ways to further increase the speed of funding commitments. Comments are due on or before April 14, 2022 and reply comments are due on or before May 16, 2022.

In the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM), the Commission proposes and seeks comment on several revisions to the Commission's Rural Health Care Program (RHC Program) rules designed to ensure that rural healthcare providers receive funding necessary to access the broadband and telecommunications services necessary to provide vital healthcare services while limiting costly inefficiencies and the potential for waste, fraud, and abuse. The RHC Program provides vital support to assist rural health care providers with the costs of broadband and other communications services. Reliable high speed connectivity is critical for rural health care providers to serve patients in rural areas that often have limited resources, fewer doctors, and higher rates for broadband and telecommunications services than urban areas. Recent years have also seen an explosion in demand for telehealth services, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, that has increased the bandwidth needs of rural health care providers. The Commission seeks comment on proposed revisions to the RHC Program's funding determination mechanisms and administrative processes in an effort to improve the accuracy and fairness of RHC Program support and increase the efficiency of program administration.

In the FNPRM, the Commission seeks comment on options for determining support in the Telecom Program and propose revisions to Telecom Program forms to improve the quality and consistency of Telecom Program data. The Commission also seeks comment on an alternative rate determination mechanism to the Rates Database to improve the accuracy of rates in the Telecom Program. Additionally, it proposes to limit the applicability of the internal funding cap on upfront payments and multi-year commitments to instances in which demand exceeds available funding; to target funding for the current funding year over future years when the internal cap is exceeded; and to simplify the invoicing process in the Telecom Program while strengthening protections against waste, fraud and abuse. The Commission also seeks comment on ways to expedite and streamline the application and funding commitment process.
 
FR notice inviting comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-05191

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