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Ongoing FCC efforts to assist during COVID-19 pandemic

posted Mar 31, 2020, 9:14 AM by IT Admin   [ updated Mar 31, 2020, 9:16 AM ]
March 31, 2020 - In addition to the activity below, you can track all of the FCC's COVID-19-related items on the FCC's  Keep Americans Connected page.
  • New Hospital Robocall Protection Group: While it's hard to believe that scammers and fraudsters would clog up hospital phone lines with nuisance calls in a time of crisis, it is a reality. And the last thing health care facilities should need to worry about right now is robocalls. So the FCC launched a group to help combat these calls.
  • Helping Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands stay connected: The FCC granted AT&T temporary access to use additional spectrum (AWS-4 spectrum licensed to DISH) to serve Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands during the pandemic. The Commission under Chairman Pai has placed a special emphasis on connectivity on the islands following the devastating storms that hit them in recent years. This move comes on the heels of several other temporary spectrum grants to boost wireless networks across the country.
  • Relief for Rural Health Care Program participants: The FCC took a number of actions to assist rural healthcare facilities, including extending the program application window and other administrative deadlines. Healthcare providers have faced massive disruption due to the pandemic, and the FCC, alongside other federal agencies, is working to address these challenges head on. These changes will help these providers focus more of their attention on caring for patients.
  • Temporary access to 5.9 GHz Spectrum: Like everyone, rural Americans are facing an increased need for broadband services as more of us work, learn, and get healthcare at home. Fixed wireless Internet providers serve many of these rural areas and having additional spectrum will help them meet the needs of their customers. The FCC is granting temporary access to 5.9 GHz spectrum to 33 Internet providers serving 330 counties in 29 states.
  • Zoom and WebEx regulatory relief: Inteliquent, the company that carries traffic for Zoom and WebEx, has faced a massive increase in conference calls. Normally, that would trigger the FCC's "access arbitrage" rules leading to financial penalties. The FCC has granted a waiver from these rules to help Americans stay connected to these services.
  • Connectivity on the Pueblo of Zuni tribal reservation: The FCC granted emergency access to 2.5 GHz spectrum for the A:SHIWI College & Career Readiness Center to provide broadband service to the Zuni tribe in New Mexico. Chairman Pai has seen the digital divide first-hand on tribal lands in New Mexico, and is committed to finding creative solutions to close that divide, including through this action.
  • Keeping Low-income Americans connected to Lifeline: The FCC took action to help ensure that no current Lifeline subscribers are involuntarily removed from the program during the pandemic. Specifically, the Commission waived several rules that could otherwise result in de-enrollment of Lifelien, which provides monthly discounts on broadband and voice services to low-income consumers.
  • $200 Million plan for COVID-19 Telehealth Program: Chairman Pai announced his plan for a $200 million telehealth program to support healthcare providers responding to the ongoing pandemic. Congress appropriated the funds as part of the CARES Act. This will allow the FCC to help health care providers purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing telehealth services. These services would directly help COVID-19 patients and provide care to patients with other conditions who might risk contracting the coronavirus when visiting a healthcare provider—while reducing practitioners’ potential exposure to the virus.
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