HealthIT gets FCC broadband subsidy

The agency's hope is that the subsidy will encourage new services and ultimately cut the cost of care in rural areas. The money would help subsidize creation of public and non-profit broadband networks serving rural communities.

HealthIT, which is has already benefited from billions in stimulus subsidies, is going to get another $400 million hit from the FCC.

While most comments about the agency's Broadband Plan focused on an ongoing political battle between carriers and advocates of net neutrality, the rural health plan may prove more important in the long run.

The idea is that the government will pick up half the tab for broadband services in rural areas aimed at helping doctors and patients move Electronic Health Records, images, and other data.

The report said the current fund is underutilized, and that only 8% of Indian Health Services have broadband access, and 30% of federally-funded rural health clinics can't afford broadband services.The hope is the fund can bring clinic speeds up to 10 Mbps at over 2,000 clinics.

The agency's hope is that the subsidy will encourage new services and ultimately cut the cost of care in rural areas. The money would help subsidize creation of public and non-profit broadband networks serving rural communities.

The money comes from the Universal Service Fund, an 11% tax on long distance and international phone services which the arrival of Voice over IP has helped millions evade in the last few years.

The subsidy is only part of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) dubbed the Third Way by FCC chair Julius Genachowski, which telecom companies will fight fiercely both in comments and before Congress. They might drop some objections if they were given the free money to waste as they've wasted so many billions in the past.

While the Bells' opposition to the plan is drawing the most attention, liberals accuse the agency of bending too far in the other direction.

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