The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF or Fund) has been one of the nation’s most important tools for connecting our nation, including rural communities, low-income families, schools, libraries, and rural health care facilities. However, the funding mechanism that supports the Fund is under significant duress. The “contribution base” – the revenues used to calculate USF contributions – has declined 63% in the last two decades, from $79.9 billion in 2001 to $29.6 billion in 2021.
In October 2019, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society issued Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s. The agenda was comprehensive, constructed upon achievements in communities and insights from experts across the nation. The report outlined the key building blocks of broadband policy—deployment, competition, community anchor institutions, and digital equity (including affordability and adoption).
Policymakers should help enable community anchor institutions to connect to their users wherever they are. Policymakers should recognize that the mission of community anchor institutions is to improve lives. Broadband is a key element in fulfilling that mission. Baltimore’s public school system has created a classroom in a community center to offer training in internet access. Librarians note that the provision of skills training is a natural fit with the historic missions of their institutions—offering a trusted space in which people of all ages can learn in the ways that best suit them.
Community anchor institutions should be at the center of any comprehensive national strategy to promote the availability and use of High-Performance Broadband. Community anchor institutions use broadband to provide essential services to their community, such as education, information access, and telehealth services. But in the 21st century, community anchors’ missions are moving beyond their walls. Libraries no longer deliver knowledge that is housed only within their buildings or the covers of hardbound books.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requests input from community health stakeholders, technology developers, and other interested parties about how digital health technologies are used, or could be used in the future, to transform community health, individual wellness, and health equity.
The Federal Communications Commission approved an additional 68 applications for funding commitments totaling $42,702,383 for Round 2 of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program. This is the FCC’s fifth funding announcement of approved Round 2 applications, bringing the total to over $208 million awarded to healthcare providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia. Below is a list of health care providers that were approved for funding in this fifth funding wave:
Medicare Beneficiaries’ Use of Telehealth in 2020: Trends by Beneficiary Characteristics and Location
This research report examines changes in Medicare fee-for-service Part B visits and use of telehealth in 2020 during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) by beneficiary characteristics, provider specialty, and location. The analysis found that Medicare in-person visits dropped while telehealth visits increased significantly at the start of the pandemic. Subsequently, telehealth visits declined before plateauing by the end of 2020. Visits to behavioral health specialists showed the largest increase in telehealth. Most telehealth visits were from the beneficiary's home.
The Federal Communications Commission approved an additional 75 applications for funding commitments totaling $42,163,705 for Round 2 of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program. This is the FCC’s fourth funding announcement of approved Round 2 applications, bringing the total to approximately $166.13 million awarded to health care providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia, and completing the first phase of Round 2 of the Program.
Sens Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the bipartisan Expanded Telehealth Access Act. During COVID-19, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded access to telehealth services to a range of health care providers, and this legislation would permanently expand that eligibility.
To address the enduring nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission clarifies that for the second round of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, applicants will receive points on their applications for being located in a hotspot or a sustained hotspot based on the relevant dataset as of either (1) May 6, 2021, the date when the application filing window closed, or (2) November 19, 2021, the date when the ten-day resubmission period closes.