Healthcare advocates in northern New England are frustrated that the federal government hasn't followed through on a plan to improve communication between doctors and other providers in rural areas.
It has been nearly three years since the Federal Communications Commission said it would spend $417 million to create a national communication system to link healthcare providers through video-conferencing and other technology.
Providers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont created the New England Telehealth Consortium to take advantage of the program, hoping to begin building the network in late 2008. Now it looks like northern New England won't get a program until 2010 at the earliest.
"The bureaucracy of the process has proven to be quite daunting," said Brian Thibeau, president of the Bangor, Maine-based consortium.
The region is far from alone. Thibeau said not one of the 69 groups nationwide that have applied has implemented an operating system. Only two have been guaranteed money.
Robert Kenny, an FCC spokesman, said the commission is concerned about the delay. "The commission is looking at those issues really closely," he said.