FCC Boosts Telehealth Funding

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has made it unanimous. The FCC will boost spending on its telehealth program by $171 million (43%) to $571 million.

The program is a Universal Service Fund subsidy for broadband-facilitated diagnosis and treatment.

The Republicans majority had already voted for the increase, but Rosenworcel had been vetting the proposal before signing off on it (a vote is not official until all are case or, eventually, a time limit is reached).

There had been a $400 million cap on the fund, but FCC chairman Ajit Pai had said in circulating the item early this month that it was necessary to avoid a funding crisis--spending cuts forced by the cap--the commission needed to boost it with what was essentially an inflation adjustment had the fund had one since it was created in 1997.

The FCC will increase the fund by such an inflation adjustment going forward. 

"As the son of two doctors in rural Kansas, and having visited telemedicine projects from Alaska to Florida, I understand the critical role that broadband plays in giving patients in rural areas high-quality health care services," Pai said after casting his vote mid-month.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.