[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 47 (Friday, March 9, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 14364-14366]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-5687]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

[WC Docket No 02-60; DA 12-273]


Comment Sought on Funding Pilot Program Participants 
Transitioning Out of the Rural Health Care Pilot Program in Funding 
Year 2012

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Notice; solicitation of comments.

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SUMMARY: In this document, the Wireline Competition Bureau seeks 
comment on whether to fund Rural Health Care Pilot Program (Pilot 
Program) participants who will exhaust funding allocated to them before 
or during funding year 2012 (July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013). This funding 
would maintain support for qualifying Pilot Program participants, on an 
interim basis, during the 2012 funding year to provide time to 
establish a process to transition them into the permanent Rural Health 
Care support mechanism (RHC support mechanism).

DATES: Comments are due on or before April 18, 2012. Reply comments are 
due on or before May 3, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Interested parties may file comments on or before April 18, 
2012. All pleadings are to reference WC Docket No. 02-60. Comments may 
be filed using the Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System 
(ECFS), or by filing paper copies, by any of the following methods:
     Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically 
using the Internet by accessing the ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/.
     Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must 
file an original and four copies of each filing. If more than one 
docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, 
filers must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or 
rulemaking number.
     People with Disabilities: To request materials in 
accessible formats for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, 
electronic files, audio format), send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or 
call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 
(voice), (202) 418-0432 (tty).

For detailed instructions for submitting comments and additional 
information on the rulemaking process, see the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christianna Lewis Barnhart, Wireline 
Competition Bureau at Christianna.Barnhart@fcc.gov or (202) 418-7400 or 
TTY (202) 418-0484.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a synopsis of the Commission's 
Public Notice in WC Docket No. 02-60; DA 12-273, released February 27, 
2012. The complete text of this document is available for inspection 
and copying during normal business hours in the FCC Reference 
Information Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-A257, 
Washington, DC 20554. The document may also be purchased from the 
Commission's duplicating contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc., 445 
12th Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554, telephone (800) 
378-3160 or (202) 863-2893, facsimile (202) 863-2898, or via the 
Internet at http://www.bcpiweb.com.
    1. The Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) seeks comment on 
whether to fund Rural Health Care Pilot Program (Pilot Program) 
participants who will exhaust funding allocated to them before or 
during funding year 2012 (July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013). This funding 
would maintain support for qualifying Pilot Program participants, on an 
interim basis, during the 2012 funding year to provide time to 
establish a process to transition them into the permanent Rural Health 
Care support mechanism (RHC support mechanism). To support these 
transitioning Pilot Program participants, the funds that were 
previously designated for projects that withdrew from the Program or 
otherwise failed to meet the June 30, 2011, deadline could be used 
without increasing overall demand.

I. Background

    2. The rural health care telecommunications program ensures that 
rural health care providers pay no more than their urban counterparts 
for their telecommunications needs in the provision of health care 
services. The rural health care Internet access program provides a 25 
percent discount off the cost of monthly Internet access

[[Page 14365]]

for eligible rural health care providers. Together the 
telecommunications and Internet access programs are commonly referred 
to as the ``Primary Program.''
    3. In 2006, the Commission created a three-year Pilot Program to 
examine ways to use the RHC support mechanism to enhance public and 
non-profit health care providers' access to advanced telecommunications 
and information services. Participants in the Pilot Program are 
eligible to receive universal service funding to support up to 85 
percent of the eligible costs of broadband infrastructure deployment of 
telehealth networks that connect to rural and urban health care 
providers in a State or region. Although the FCC originally selected 69 
different projects to participate in the Pilot Program, only 50 
projects are currently in existence today. Several projects merged and 
twelve projects either withdrew from the program or otherwise failed to 
meet the June 30, 2011 funding commitment deadline and were no longer 
eligible to participate in the Pilot Program. Funding that was 
designated to support these twelve projects totaled approximately $30 
million.
    4. Approximately 484 individual health care providers (HCPs) 
participating in the Pilot Program are scheduled to transition out of 
the program during the 2012 funding year because their respective Pilot 
projects will have reached their funding cap under the 2007 Pilot 
Program Selection Order, 73 FR 8670, February 14, 2008, and the HCPs 
will have exhausted the amounts of Pilot Program support allocated to 
them under the relevant funding commitment letters issued by USAC. 
These providers are members of networks, as was required by the Pilot 
Program, and they applied for Pilot funding as consortia (as explicitly 
permitted under section 254(h)(7)(B) of the Act). The rural HCPs that 
have exhausted their Pilot funding could seek support from the Primary 
Program in the 2012 funding year (July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013). 
Significant differences between Pilot and Primary Program rules 
regarding eligibility and funding may make it difficult, however, for 
Pilot Program participants to apply for funding in the Primary Program. 
One Pilot project (and its service provider) has already raised 
questions about transitioning to the funding mechanisms in the Primary 
Program.
    5. In July 2010, the Commission sought comment on a number of 
issues, including how to transition Pilot Program participants to the 
ongoing rural health care support mechanism. We now seek more focused 
comment on supporting select Pilot Program participants at their 
current funding levels to ``bridge'' the disparity in funding and 
application requirements between the Pilot Program and Primary Programs 
for the 2012-2013 funding year. The Commission recognized in the 2006 
Pilot Program Order, 71 FR 65517, November 8, 2006, that circumstances 
may necessitate additional funding for Pilot Program participants. 
Accordingly, this ``bridge'' funding could provide additional time to 
consider how best to transition Pilot Program participants, while 
preserving the connectivity that has been developed under the Pilot. To 
support these transitioning Pilot Program participants, the funds that 
were previously designated for projects that withdrew from the Program 
or otherwise failed to meet the June 30, 2011, deadline could be used 
without increasing overall demand.
    6. Exhaustion of Pilot Program Funds. We seek comment on providing 
funds only to those participants that will have exhausted all Pilot 
Program funding allocated to them before or during funding year 2012 
(July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013), as described above. USAC estimates that 
approximately 14 out of the existing 50 projects will have some 
individual health care providers that will have spent all of the money 
in their initial award. We seek comment on this proposal and how 
providing such funding for an additional year would impact the 
sustainability of the networks developed with Pilot Program funds.
    7. Support levels for 2012-2013 funding year. We also seek comment 
on whether to maintain the existing level of support that these Pilot 
Program participants receive annually for their recurring costs. For 
instance, USAC could determine each participant's allocation for 
funding year 2012 by calculating the yearly average amount of support 
for recurring costs that participants have received over the life of 
their Pilot projects and fund them at that amount. Using this 
methodology, USAC estimates that it would cost approximately $10 
million to fund transitioning health care providers in funding year 
2012. We seek comment on this proposal to maintain the current level of 
support for eligible Pilot Program participants' recurring costs. 
Alternatively, those recipients could receive a lower discount than the 
current 85 percent. Commenters who suggest alternative funding support 
levels should offer explanation why the funding level should be 
different than what is currently provided in the Pilot Program.
    8. Duration. Pilot Program participants who meet eligibility 
requirements to receive transitional funding would only be eligible to 
receive funds for the 2012 funding year (July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013). 
We seek comment on this proposal. Commenters who suggest that Pilot 
Program participants should be eligible for funding for a different 
period of time should provide reasoning for their proposal.
    9. Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. This document does not contain 
new or modified information collection(s) subject to the Paperwork 
Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), Public Law 104-13. In addition, therefore, 
it does not contain any new or modified information burden for small 
business concerns with fewer than 25 employees, pursuant to the Small 
Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198, see 44 U.S.C. 
3506(c)(4).
    10. Pursuant to Sec. Sec.  1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission's 
rules, 47 CFR 1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file comments on or 
before the dates indicated on the first page of this document. All 
pleadings are to reference WC Docket No. 02-60. Comments may be filed 
using: (1) The Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), or 
(2) by filing paper copies. All filings must be addressed to the 
Commission's Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications 
Commission.
    11. Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically using 
the Internet by accessing the ECFS: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/. Filers 
should follow the instructions provided on the Web site for submitting 
comments.
    12. Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an 
original and one copy of each filing. If more than one docket or 
rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, filers 
must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or 
rulemaking number. Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, 
by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. 
Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission's 
Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
     All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings 
for the Commission's Secretary must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 
445 12th St. SW., Room TW-A325, Washington, DC 20554. All hand 
deliveries must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any 
envelopes must be disposed of before entering the building. The filing 
hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

[[Page 14366]]

     Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service 
Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton 
Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
     U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority 
mail must be addressed to 445 12th Street SW., Washington DC 20554.
    13. Additional copies. One copy of each filing must be sent to each 
of the following:
     The Commission's duplicating contractor, Best Copy and 
Printing, Inc., 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 
20554, www.bcpiweb.com; phone: (202) 488-5300 fax: (202) 488-5563;
     Christianna Lewis Barnhart, Telecommunications Access 
Policy Division, Wireline Competition Bureau, 445 12th Street SW., Room 
5-B552, Washington, DC 20554; email: Christianna.Barnhart@fcc.gov and
     Charles Tyler, Telecommunications Access Policy Division, 
Wireline Competition Bureau, 445 12th Street SW., Room 5-B521, 
Washington, DC 20554; email: Charles.Tyler@fcc.gov.
    14. People with Disabilities: To request materials in accessible 
formats for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic 
files, audio format), send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the 
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 
418-0432
    15. Filings and comments are also available for public inspection 
and copying during regular business hours at the FCC Reference 
Information Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-A257, 
Washington, DC 20554. They may also be purchased from the Commission's 
duplicating contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc., Portals II, 445 
12th Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554, telephone: (202) 
488-5300, fax: (202) 488-5563, or via email www.bcpiweb.com.
    16. This matter shall be treated as a ``permit-but-disclose'' 
proceeding in accordance with the Commission's ex parte rules. Persons 
making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda 
summarizing the presentations must contain summaries of the substance 
of the presentation and not merely a listing of the subjects discussed. 
More than a one or two sentence description of the views and arguments 
presented generally is required. Other rules pertaining to oral and 
written ex parte presentations in permit-but-disclose proceedings are 
set forth in Sec.  1.1206(b) of the Commission's rules.

Federal Communications Commission.
Trent Harkrader,
Division Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau.
[FR Doc. 2012-5687 Filed 3-8-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P