As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly unfolds, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has been active to keep communications services available through various waivers, extensions, and other regulatory relief.
FCC Continues COVID-19 Telehealth Program Approvals, Closes in on $200 Million Funding Cap
On July 1, 2020, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (“WCB”) approved 70 additional funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Under the latest funding round, $31.63 million will go to health care providers across 31 states and Washington D.C. This is the first set of approvals since the FCC’s June 25 announcement that it will no longer accept new applications for funding, noting that demand for funding exceeds currently-available Program funds. To date, the FCC has approved 514 funding applications in 46 states plus D.C. for a total of $189.27 million in funding, leaving just over $10 million to be allocated under the Program’s current $200 million funding cap.
FCC Announces Availability of Unused Funds for Rural Health Care
On June 30, 2020, the FCC’s WCB directed (DA 20-688) the Universal Service Administrative Company to carry over up to $197.98 million in unused funds from prior funding years to the extent necessary to satisfy funding year 2020 demand for the Rural Health Care Program. In 2018, the FCC adopted rules to adjust the Rural Health Care Program funding cap annually for inflation and allow unused funds from previous years to be carried forward into new funding years. FCC Chairman Pai highlighted this funding flexibility as critical to supporting COVID-19 telehealth measures.
FCC Announces Workshop on Libraries Amid COVID-19
On June 30, 2020, the FCC’s Digital Empowerment and Inclusion Working Group of the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment and the Media Bureau announced via Public Notice (DA 20-698) a virtual workshop to examine the role of U.S. libraries as community hubs to drive digital adoption and literacy. The workshop, which is scheduled for August 3 from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm, will address the impact of COVID-19 on advancing digital inclusion, as well as the impact of various local, state, and federal actions. The workshop will be available to the public via live feed from the FCC’s web page at www.fcc.gov/live.