Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comment on the creation of a “Connected Care Pilot” program that would provide Universal Service Fund support to help health care providers defray the cost of broadband service, allowing low-income and veteran patients to access telehealth services. Public Knowledge applauds the FCC for taking this step to learn more about how to make health care more accessible and affordable for vulnerable communities and areas with shortages of health care providers.
The following can be attributed to Phillip Berenbroick, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“Telemedicine plays an increasingly important role in how health care is provided in the United States. The FCC is correct to acknowledge that even though telemedicine can help make health care more accessible, the lack of affordable, robust, or reliable broadband access often means patients cannot take advantage of the benefits of telehealth services. Importantly, this NPRM makes clear that the sky-high price of broadband not only impacts consumers’ wallets and takes a toll on their access to vital health information, but also imposes costs on their health. As the FCC found in its most recent International Broadband Data Report, U.S. consumers pay among the highest prices in the developed world for fixed and mobile broadband.
“In addition to the NPRM’s worthy goal of defraying the cost of broadband to make telemedicine more accessible for patients, the FCC should address the extremely high cost of broadband in the U.S. Consumers often cite affordability as a leading reason why they don’t subscribe to broadband. In addition to reducing patient access to telemedicine, the high cost of connectivity also poses a barrier to economic participation, access to education, and civic engagement. The FCC should work to close the digital divide by making broadband more affordable for all.
“We commend the FCC for focusing on improving access to affordable health care, and look forward to working with the Commission and other stakeholders in this proceeding to help make broadband and telemedicine applications more affordable and accessible for low-income families and veterans, as well as those in areas with few health care providers.”
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