The Federal Communications Commission has adopted an interim final rule to enable certain providers to continue to participate in rural telemedicine programs that receive subsidized telecommunications rates.

The providers were "grandfathered" after the FCC changed its definition for a "rural area" on July 1, 2005, but that grandfather clause was to expire within days. The FCC notes in the interim final rule that it found in 2008 that discontinuing subsidized services to these providers would endanger continued availability of rural telemedicine services and would be contrary to the public interest, and it continues to have that view.

The interim final rule further notes that the Virginia Telehealth Network believes that many providers who lose grandfather status could not continue their telemedicine services, and the Nebraska Statewide Telehealth Network believes 40 sites would cease to participate.

In an accompanying proposed rule, the FCC seeks comment on whether to make these grandfathered providers permanently eligible for discounted telecommunication services. Both rules were published June 27 in the Federal Register.


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