Can FCC’s net neutrality repeal affect everyone’s healthcare benefits?
The decision of the FCC last December regarding the net neutrality repeal yielded a lot of reactions from different groups, state officials and different industries. The repeal of the net neutrality rule is a move the Republicans are initiating, some believe that the Obama-era net neutrality is being micromanaged by the federal government. However, many are against it as different industries will be impacted by this repeal.
The 2015 net neutrality rules changed the category of the internet providers under the “common carriers” same as that of the phone services wherein they are not allowed to block websites or slow down app, services or content and are not entitled to paid prioritization.
Those who disagree with the rule including the major telecom companies said that because of this, their services have been limited and that investment in broadband networks had been slow.
The repeal proposed by Republican Ajit Pai has been targeted to abolish the net neutrality principles. If this will take effect one of the industries that will be affected is health care. If paid prioritization is allowed, in theory, it will mean it will allow specific internet-enabled health care services, for example, telemedicine and remote monitoring. According to an FCC representative through Modern Healthcare, With Internet-enabled healthcare apps and services, paid prioritization could be the difference between life and death for patients who require very reliable and fast connectivity for health monitoring, consultation, and service delivery.”
In reality, it can be suspicious that the end of net neutrality will give good results because critics think that only bigger and richer companies would benefit from the fast lanes and telemedicine via means of telecommunication requires a lot of bandwidth. There are three more reasons why this is so. First, since internet providers do have power, they can select which provider for data center, telemedicine and cloud computing services have to pay more for better connectivity. Problems also in regulating competition may arise.Secondly, Costs could go up. Internet providers could charge hospitals and cloud-based vendors to provide dependable service for critical applications, and these charges can be passed on to consumers. Third, according to four researchers in June Health Affairs blog post, “For telemedicine to be scalable and positively impact cost and outcomes, there must be a predictable infrastructure connecting patients, care providers, and technology … The undoing of [net neutrality] weakens the infrastructure of reliable, low-cost connectivity that telehealth systems depend upon.”
Some healthcare professionals like the American Academy of Pediatrics, sided on the ban on paid prioritization as higher costs will be charged to consumers for services. The National Journal also favored net neutrality law because if repeal happens, the possibility of turning the internet into an anti-utopia ruled by biggest and richest companies could happen.
At present, medical devices rely on the internet. Healthcare can be seen through fitness trackers, mobile health apps, and devices that can be used as a reference for check-ups. These useful applications require connection to the internet, it will be very helpful if the environment is equal, free-flowing with information and always accessible to the consumer. This is what the net neutrality law can do for healthcare.