FCC: Hospitals and schools can now get direct help from carriers
The FCC has waived rules preventing hospitals and schools from getting direct help from carriers for connectivity issues.
Specifically, the FCC has temporarily waived rules relating to its E-Rate and Rural Health Care programs. The initiatives provide subsidies to participating hospitals, schools, and libraries, but prohibits seeking assistance from service providers to prevent fraud and abuse.
During the global coronavirus pandemic, ensuring hospitals have adequate connectivity is paramount. Staff will need to coordinate their responses, manage resources, and keep up-to-date with the latest developments and treatments from around the world.
While some US schools are following their counterparts in several other countries and closing amid the coronavirus outbreak, hospitals do not have that luxury and will come under increasing strain in the weeks ahead.
The waiving of the rules will nonetheless allow both schools and hospitals to seek assistance from carriers to keep their operations running as smoothly as possible during these difficult times.
Such assistance could be in the form of a free network upgrade to increase capacity for things like telemedicine in hospitals. For students without broadband, free hotspots could be provided to ensure they can continue learning from home.
"We strongly encourage service providers and equipment makers to partner with schools and libraries to provide mobile hotspots and other broadband-enabled devices to students to help bridge the digital divide during the coronavirus pandemic," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.
The FCC estimates that more than 21 million people in the US don't have a broadband connection with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second. With more people and students having to work and study from home, this could limit what they can do.
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