The Federal Communication Commission today agreed to issue a proposed rule that would update its Rural Health Care Program to meet the growing demand for broadband telehealth services. The agency also approved an order waiving the RHC Program’s annual cap for 2017 and allowing unused funds from previous years to support current applicants. The $400 million annual cap was exceeded in fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The proposed rule seeks comment on increasing the annual cap permanently, as advocated by the AHA, and creating a prioritization mechanism in the event demand exceeds the cap. In other action, the agency today overturned so-called “net neutrality” regulations that prevented broadband providers from charging for faster service or certain content, and will no longer regulate internet service providers as if they were a utility. The AHA will evaluate how the net neutrality changes may affect health care.

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Perspective
Improving rural health is an AHA priority because we truly cannot advance health in America without keeping our rural communities strong.