ATA calls FCC effort in Rural Healthcare 'disturbing'

Last week the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) submitted a letter to Julius Genachowski, chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), regarding the “poor administration of the Rural Healthcare program.”

The Rural Health Care Program is designed to provide discounts to eligible rural healthcare providers for telecommunication services and monthly internet service charges. It also aims to deploy telehealth services where immediate health services are not readily available.

According to ATA, the FCC stated it would provide $400 million annually for the program, but only used $80 million this year, leaving over $300 million unspent. The FCC has only spent 20% of the allotted money.

The complaint from the ATA comes a year after the FCC implemented rules regarded the Rural Healthcare plan and 16 months after it adopted the National Broadband Plan. This is not the first complaint, in November the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) wrote a report criticizing the Commissions management of the plan.

In the letter the ATA says, “It is deeply troubling to see that the Commission is allotting practically no resources with no apparent plans to address the proposed rulemaking, the approved Broadband Plan or to respond to the GAO report.”

According to ATA, over the past three years it had repeatedly asked the FCC to make changes to the Rural Healthcare program, as well as submitted comments and supported the FCC’s Broadband Plan.

The letter ends with the ATA pleading with the FCC to, “reach a decision in these matters quickly and to implement the approved changes without further delay.”

The FCC has yet to reply to the letter.

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