Announcement: FCC Announces New Healthcare Funding Program
The FCC recently announced the creation of a Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) of $400 million annually. The purpose of the HCF is to expand broadband access to health care providers and to encourage state and regional broadband networks for health care.  The HCF will support the cost of (1) broadband and other advanced services; (2) upgrading existing facilities to higher bandwidth; (3) equipment necessary to create networks of health care providers, as well as equipment necessary to receive broadband services; and (4) health care provider-owned infrastructure where shown to be the most cost-effective option.
The HCF program requires eligible healthcare providers (primarily non-profits) to contribute 35% of the total cost of a HCP project; in-kind contributions are not permitted.  The HCP program provides the remaining 65%.  There are two categories of HCF projects each with separate funding limits: (i) infrastructure funding (new network deployments) capped at $150M annually, and (ii) provisioned services (provided by telecom carriers) for the remaining $250M.  Infrastructure funding (build your own) is limited to consortia, and must be shown to be more cost effective than purchase of services.
Fiberutilities Group believes the HCF program represents the best and most cost effective vehicle for rural healthcare providers to secure the robust broadband networks required to deliver 21st century healthcare technologies while facilitating many of the requirements and provisions enacted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (‘‘PPACA’’; Public Law 111–148).