Pai Proposes Boosting Rural Healthcare Funding

FCC chair Ajit Pai has proposed providing extra funds for the FCC's Rural Healthcare Program, which is a Universal Service Fund subsidy for broadband-facilitated diagnosis and treatment.

Pai said the boost was to address a funding "crisis."

The current cap on the annual fund, launched in 1997, is $400 million, but Pai has circulated a proposal to the other commissioners that would raise the cap to $571 million, saying that demand has outstripped the supply of money.

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Pai pointed out that the cap did not have an inflation adjustment and that the new figure is simply 1997's $400 million in 2018 dollars.

In a statement, Pai indicated his interest in the program was personal as well as professional.

"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," he said.

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.