Health Groups Warn FCC Against Bolstering Net Neutrality Rules

January 23, 2015 in News

Last week, three health IT groups sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission expressing concern about the effect potential changes to the Open Internet framework could pose to mobile health innovation, Modern Healthcare reports (Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 1/21).

About Net Neutrality

In May 2014, FCC released for public comment a proposed rule that would enhance protections for Internet openness outlined in the agency’s 2010 Open Internet Order.

Net neutrality is the idea that the Internet should be open and that all telecommunication companies should be required to treat all Internet traffic equally.

Under this concept, Internet providers would not be able to block or degrade access to specific services or websites. They also would not be able to create a “fast lane” for favored content that loads more quickly than other content.

The topic has garnered more attention in recent years as the amount of data being transmitted across networks has increased, with some arguing that the volume is unsustainable.

Some net neutrality opponents have proposed creating a “fast lane” or “paid prioritization” that would allow consumers to pay more to move data faster, while proponents of net neutrality say the Internet should be equally available to all (iHealthBeat, 11/21/14).

FCC is expected consider approaches to guarantee the concept next month.

According to Modern Healthcare, the health care industry stands to be affected by any changes in policy, as health care services are increasingly being delivered online or through smartphone applications.

Letter Details

The letter was signed by the:

  • Health IT Now Coalition;
  • mHealth Regulatory Coalition; and
  • Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance.

In the letter, the groups urged FCC to maintain rules established the 2010 Open Internet Order, which helped the mobile sector to thrive.

They argued a more stringent approach to regulations would decrease telecommunication companies’ investment in their networks, resulting in slower Internet speed and performance (Modern Healthcare, 1/22).

They noted that the “U.S. has been at the forefront of connected health deployments worldwide,” such as:

  • Remote patient monitoring; and
  • Mobile apps that allow patient to manage their wellness and fitness.

In addition, they cited an increase in the percentage of doctors using smartphones and tablets for work.

They wrote, “We are concerned that the wrong regulatory rules could inhibit or greatly delay needed network investment and innovation that will be critical to next-generation health solutions” (Letter, 1/15).

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