Life in the Slow Lane? What the Net Neutrality Repeal May Mean for Telehealth ServicesJan 28, 2018
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must treat all internet data equally and not discriminate or charge differently based on content, user, website, platform, application, or method of communication. Following this principle, the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted net neutrality rules in 2015, classifying high-speed broadband service as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act and prohibiting ISPs from intentionally speeding up, slowing down, or blocking any content, applications, or websites. On December 14, 2017, however, the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal the net neutrality rules, creating considerable uncertainty about how this policy change will affect the healthcare industry, particularly with respect to telemedicine.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has argued that the government’s light touch approach to high-speed internet will be a net benefit for telemedicine. Pai stated at the Project Goal’s Conference on Aging and Technology on November 30, 2017,
[O]ne aspect of this proposal I think is worth highlighting here is the flexibility it would give for prioritizing services that could make meaningful differences in the delivery of healthcare. By ending the outright ban on paid prioritization, we hope to make it easier for consumers to benefit from services that need prioritization—such as latency-sensitive telemedicine. Now, we can’t predict exactly which innovations entrepreneurs will come up with. But by replacing an outright ban with a robust transparency requirement and FTC-led consumer protection, we will enable these services to come into being and help seniors.
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