WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules could have a big impact on home health care, according to several experts.
“Telehealth doesn’t work if you don’t have that connectivity,” said Mei Wa Kwong, interim executive director at the Center for Connected Health Policy. “It’s an essential element of telehealth and if you price people out, they aren’t going to be able to use it.”
The net neutrality rules, approved by the FCC in 2015, were intended to keep the Internet open and fair by prohibiting Internet service providers from speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps. Under the repeal, the FCC would do away with those rules, as well as eliminate a rule barring ISPs from prioritizing their own content.
While experts fear that a repeal of net neutrality rules will negatively impact those who have been underserved by the health care system—low-income people and others—the FCC believes that lifting the ban on paid prioritization will spur innovation and ensure that health information will have priority over other Internet traffic. Bennett Ross, a partner with Wiley Rein LLP law firm, agrees.
“These apocalyptic claims are misguided,” he said. “Even if permitted to offer prioritization services, it is not clear that ISPs will actually do so.”
And if they do? Ross believes that health care is one industry that will actually benefit from the ability of an ISP to prioritize traffic because the quality and accessibility of medical care could be improved if medical service providers had the option to pay for priority services to make sure patient medical information is delivered quickly and reliably.
“The bottom line is that the FCC’s recent order removes heavy-handed regulation of the Internet, which allows the industry to innovate without government permission,” said Ross. “The health care industry should embrace, not fear, such innovations.”