On June 25, 2020, HIMSS and PCHAlliance submitted comments in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) requesting feedback on the establishment of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 5G Fund for Rural America.
HIMSS and PCHAlliance are supportive of the overall establishment and deployment of the fund, which would use multi-round reverse actions to distribute up to $9 billion over the next decade and beyond to bring voice and 5G broadband services to rural areas of the country.
In the letter, HIMSS and PCHAlliance expounded on how FCC is in a unique position to help healthcare professionals, educators, students and patients use information and communications technology to overcome the challenges of residing in areas where there is little to no broadband connectivity. Building off a HIMSS-PCHAlliance letter from April 2020, we re-emphasized that many of the forward-thinking actions that FCC has taken during the Coronavirus Pubic Health Emergency (PHE) on expanding the availability and accessibility of telehealth resources will contribute to the library of evidence necessary to enact permanent changes in telehealth eligibility.
The Proposed Regulation seeks input on two approaches: deploying funds now or delaying deployment until new data is collected and assessed. HIMSS and PCHAlliance stressed the importance of taking the time to get accurate data to better ensure that areas with no current broadband connectivity appropriately receive the funds. Ultimately, this would require FCC to take more of a middle ground to the two approaches they propose in the NPRM. While we recognize and appreciate the need to deploy funds as fast as possible to areas of need, the risk of allocating the funds based on flawed historical data is something we feel should be avoided.
In addition, we recommended FCC lean more on the requirements put forth in the recently enacted Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, requiring FCC to collect and disseminate granular broadband service availability data (broadband maps) from wired, fixed-wireless, satellite and mobile broadband providers. In addition, FCC is required to establish the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (a dataset of geocoded information for all broadband service locations, atop which broadband maps are overlaid) as the vehicle for reporting broadband service availability data.
HIMSS and PCHAlliance also continued to stress the importance in tracking and evaluating cost savings to the healthcare system at large and the populations it serves through these programs, specifically on the remote monitoring pilot. This includes documenting and evaluating programmatic successes in a consistent manner to provide an important basis for future continued use of these virtual delivery modes.
Overall, we noted that FCC’s 5G Fund presents a real opportunity to ensure that rural and historically underserved areas have access to this level of connectivity and prioritizes communities that most need these services.
Read the entire comment letter and direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
HIMSS Government Relations
The HIMSS policy team works closely with the U.S. Congress, federal decision makers, state legislatures and governments, and other organizations to recommend policy, and legislative and regulatory solutions to improve health through information and technology.
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