Overview

The FCC launched the Rural Health Care "Pilot" Program in 2007. It was an experiment to determine if Rural Health Care "Primary" Program funds could be used more effectively. $400 million was set aside to network eligible rural health care providers. The FCC planned to pay 85 percent of the cost, while third parties (e.g., foundations, state governments, or the participants) would have to pay the other 15 percent.

The State of Michigan asked the Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI) to apply for Pilot Program funding on its behalf. In late 2007 MPHI was awarded $20.9 million, the 4th highest among 69 nationwide projects. MPHI managed what eventually became three projects involving 118 health care sites. These three projects will network Michigan health care providers and support Federal and State health information exchange (HIE) and telemedicine initiatives.

The first project, finished in mid-2010, completed a tower-based wireless network connecting eight rural hospitals in Michigan's thumb area. The project used $520,000 of federal funding plus a 15 percent match from the eight hospitals.

The second project is the construction of a mostly fiber, high-speed, MPLS, statewide health care network linking 84 sites. It will ultimately cost $8.2 million in federal funding plus a 15 percent match from the 26 participating health care organizations, including the Michigan Department of Corrections. Construction started in the fall of 2011 and should be completed by late summer 2013.

The third and final project will build private fiber networks for four Michigan hospital systems involving a total of 34 sites. The networks are being provided under 20-year IRU leases (indefeasible right-to-use leases). The FCC is providing $10.8 million in funding; the four hospital systems are paying a 15 percent match. Construction started in early 2012, with completion expected within 12 to 18 months.