FCC rule would grant rural eligibility to some providers

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking comments on a proposed rule that would grandfather approximately 235 healthcare providers, making them permanently eligible for discounted services under the rural healthcare program.

Under the proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on June 27, healthcare providers that are located in a "rural area" as defined by the Commission prior to July 1, 2005, and received a funding commitment from the rural healthcare program prior to July 1, 2005,.would continue to be treated as if they are located in a rural area for the purposes of determining eligibility for all universal service rural healthcare programs, wrote the FCC.

The providers in question do not currently qualify as rural but play a key role in delivering healthcare services to regions that do qualify as rural today, according to the FCC. The proposed rule would ensure that healthcare providers located in rural areas can continue to connect with grandfathered providers to provide care in rural areas, the commission stated.

"We seek comment on petitioners' and commenters' assertions that permanently grandfathering these providers will promote our goal of advancing access to broadband connectivity for healthcare purposes. We believe that discontinuance of discounted services would jeopardize the ability of grandfathered providers to continue offering essential healthcare services to rural areas," the proposed rule states.

Comments are due by July 27 and reply comments are due by Aug. 11.

Click here to see the proposed rule.