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FCC Plans to Change Telecom Rate Determination for Rural Providers

By February 23, 2022No Comments


By Anuja Vaidya

The commission is seeking comments on proposed changes to how it sets rates for the Rural Health Care Program, which supports rural provider access to broadband and other telecommunications services.

– The Federal Communications Commission plans to change how payment rates are determined for rural providers using telecommunications, including telehealth.

The Rural Health Care Program assists rural healthcare providers with the cost of broadband and other communications services. It includes the Telecommunications (Telecom) Program, which subsidizes the difference between urban and rural rates for telecommunications services, and the Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) Program, which promotes broadband services and facilitates the formation of healthcare providers consortia.

The FCC is seeking comment on potential revisions to the rates database for the Telecom Program.

Adopted in 2019, the rates database lists eligible services in the program, median urban and rural rates for services by state, and underlying rate data used to determine the median rates. But the use of the database was waived in funding years 2021 and 2022 due to “anomalies and inconsistencies,” according to the FCC.

Now, the FCC is asking for comment on how best to fix those anomalies, which include examples of lower median rates in more rural tiers as compared with less rural tiers. Rural tiers are groupings of comparable rural areas based on the provider’s location relative to the Census Bureau’s Core Based Statistical Area designation.

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