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Rural Health Care Program 101

What is the Rural Health Care Program? Who is eligible for services? What services can be obtained through this program? has done the research and laid out the RHC program here:

What is the RHC Program?

Without reliable, high-speed connectivity, many rural communities are effectively barred from adopting critical technology. Ultimately, limiting Health Care Providers in reaching patients across remote areas.

From utilizing tele-heath & tele-medicine technology to software defined EHR (Electronic Health Record) Systems, there is an ever-increasing reliance on high-speed, high-bandwidth networks with a focus on accessibility and reliability. Providers and patients are at a disadvantage in executing critical healthcare technologies within undeserved communities. Health Care Providers would have to find a cost-effective way to achieve the robust broadband and connectivity infrastructure to support the digital health technologies today's era requires.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) developed the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program to alleviate the gap in provider access to reliable connectivity and critical infrastructure. The RHC Program offers multiple funding resources to enable high-speed broadband services and strengthen infrastructure to allow healthcare providers to deliver quality and critical care across the nation without location restrictions.

The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company on behalf of the FCC and was designed to ease the financial burden of obtaining broadband and infrastructure services. Eligible Health Care entities can receive up to 65% subsidy for a number of services in relation to telecommunications, broadband connectivity and off site data center services. This program has an average annual cap of roughly $400 million available within the two main sub programs. The Telecommunications Program Fund and The Healthcare Connect Fund.

Healthcare Connect Vs. Telecommunications Fund:

A quick breakdown of the two sub programs provided by USAC below, for a more in depth breakdown on services and sub-program info, click the comparison table to visit the USAC Resources Page.

Who is Eligible for Services?

Public or not-for-profit hospitals, rural health clinics, community health centers, health centers serving immigrants, community mental health centers, local health departments or agencies, post-secondary educational institutions/teaching hospitals/medical schools, or consortia of the above.

Did you know? If your healthcare organization is located in an urban area, you may still be eligible to apply to the Healthcare Connect Fund Program as part of a consortium (if more than 50 percent of its members are rural)?

Non-rural HCPs may participate in Healthcare Connect Fund if they belong to a consortium that has a majority (or over 50% of its members) rural HCPs, however, only those non-rural HCPs that fit into one of the eligible categories listed above can receive support from the program. Other non-rural HCPs may participate as a consortia and benefit from consortia rates that are offered by service providers or equipment vendors.

The largest HCPs (400 + patient beds) are eligible, but support is capped if non-rural. Eligible entities include:

-Post-secondary educational institutions offering healthcare instruction,

such as teaching hospitals or medical schools

-Community health centers

-Local health departments or agencies

-Community mental health centers

-Rural health clinics including mobile clinics

-Dedicated emergency rooms of rural for-profit hospitals

-Skilled nursing facilities

-A consortium of healthcare providers that includes at

least one of the facilities mentioned above

What Services are Eligible Through RHC Funding?

Eligible entities and consortia may seek support for broadband services, network equipment, and (for consortium applicants) HCP-constructed and owned network facilities.

  • Reasonable and customary installation charges

  • Lit fiber lease

  • Dark fiber

  • Connection to research and education networks

  • HCP connections between off-site data centers and administrative offices

  • Upfront charges for deployment of new or upgraded facilities

  • HCP-constructed and owned facilities

  • Equipment necessary to make broadband service functional

  • Equipment necessary to manage, control or maintain broadband service or dedicated health care broadband network

Off-site Data Centers and Off-site Administrative Offices:

The new program provides support to HCPs for connections and network equipment associated with off-site data centers and off-site administrative offices.

What has changed for FY 2021? is now an eligible Service Provider!

bigbyte is now happy to report that we have obtained our USAC/FCC Service Provider Identification Number and is now eligible to provide Off site Data Center and Administrative Office services covered under the USAC RHC program. Eligible HCP entities will be required to follow the competitive bidding guidelines, which include posting the request for services on USAC for 28 days.

Additionally, the USAC RHC Program filing window has been extended for funding year 2021 in order to allow more HCP's the opportunity to address critical deficiencies in tele-health, connectivity and required COVID related resources.

How to Participate?

Click the application process below to take the eligibility training provided by USAC. Applicants will need to file an FCC Form 460.

For a full guide to the Rural Health Care Program, Visit the USAC Learning Page

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