FCC Proposal to Expand Rural Broadband Too Limiting

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , August 18, 2010
  • Eliminate the proviso allowing participants to sell excess broadband capacity to entities that don't provide healthcare.
  • Allow funding to support project management and administration, including salaries and travel, which the current FCC rules do not allow.
  • Remove cash only requirement for matching funds or adopt a more liberal position for grantees to accept in-kind services.
  • Quickly reevaluate the costs per site of each approved project to ensure the efficient use of federal funds.

According to an FCC report released July 20, between 14 million and 24 million Americans do not have access to broadband today, and most of these individuals are disproportionately lower income and/or rural residents.

It is well known that rural areas lag behind urban and suburban regions in having commercially available broadband access.  According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, only 47% of Americans in rural areas have access to broadband connections at home, whereas 61% of urban adults and 64% of suburban adults have such access.

"The FCC's rulemaking comment period began Aug. 9 with publication in the Federal Register, and will end in Sept. 8, with the deadline for comments in reply to those comments Sept. 23. I have no doubt that many affected rural health providers will make the strongest arguments they can to expand rural broadband access.

Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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