On this page of the MiCTA Web Site both Schools and Libraries (E-Rate) and Health Care Connect Fund (HCF) eligible members will be provided current information on the two MiCTA National programs via links listed below. MiCTA has supported its Universal Service Fund (USF) E-Rate members nationally for many years by providing competitive “best practices” conducted RFP Telecommunications programs, on-going information, and training related to the USF E-Rate funding process which it now expands to its Healthcare members through its new MiCTA National Healthcare Connect Fund Program.
On July 11 and December 19, 2014 the FCC passed two Orders that created sweeping changes to the E-Rate Program. First by removing or phasing out previously funded “operational” services, including the funding for voice services, and secondly to enhance the resources for broadband connectivity to schools and libraries in the country which reflects President Obama’s “Connect Ed” proclamation. The Order also adds 1 billion dollars, budgeted per student, for the next 5 years (and possibly longer) to on premise network distribution equipment with a focus on “Fixed Wireless” (Wi-Fi) internet access. On November 20, 2014, the FCC announced in the Federal Registry that the Office of Management and Budget approved the FCC Forms 470 and 471 for use in the E-Rate Program. In July of 2015, USAC deployed the E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC), an online Portal, directing that it would now be the tool for processing all E-Rate filings, processes and procedures. Unfortunately the Portal had some difficulties and delayed the opening of the 2016 471 funding window. Now that the 2017 Funding window has closed the FCC has issued a Public Notice for comments regarding the Commissions issuance of the 2018 Eligible Services List.
In the July 11, 2014 Order, the FCC states the following: "We also add a definition of “consortium” in our rules that is based on the definition of “library consortium” that has long been a part of our rules. In the definition, we also make it clear that consortia may include health care providers eligible under the Rural Health Care program and public sector (governmental) entities, including, but not limited to, state colleges and state universities, state educational broadcasters, counties, and municipalities. This change does not alter requirements for applicants and service providers." (https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-14-99A1.pdf?; page 74)
Healthcare Connect Fund
After many “change in rules/eligible services” filing requests with the FCC, MiCTA was pleased with the Commission’s passage of Order 12-150 on December 12, 2012, creating the Healthcare Connect Fund under the existing RHC Telecommunications Program. This new “Broadband” driven program seeks to enhance the capability of Rural HCPs to deliver a higher level of quality health care through the funding of “Advanced Broadband” services and stimulation of “HCP Consortiums” allowing “Non-Rural” HCPs to participate for the first time adding expertise to the diagnostic and treatment process. MiCTA is pleased that in the Order the Commission agreed with MiCTA and is allowing our Healthcare members to use MiCTA MSAs awarded through the E-Rate 470 process and by-pass the HCF 461 bid process. (Link to document. Quote is on pages 115 and 116.)
Healthcare Connect Fund update
On March 1, 2014 the initial 462 “Funding Request” application process opened. One of the positive outcomes of this new program is the FCC form 462 (request for funding) and supporting documentation may be filed through the end of each funding year. This extended 462 filing process provides the opportunity for qualified applicants to still receive funding within the annual July 1 to June 30 funding cycle on a “first come first severed” basis as long as annual funding is still available.
In working closely with FCC and USAC officials, MiCTA is attempting to both create uniformity wherever possible in process and procedural rules between the USF E-Rate and HCF Programs, as well as technically advance their “Eligible Services.”