How net neutrality may put healthcare innovation at risk

Net neutrality is harmful to the healthcare industry--putting innovation at risk and raising costs, writes Sean Hackbarth, a blogger for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In February, the Federal Communications Commission ruled in favor of net neutrality, declaring there would be no paid prioritization, meaning no "fast lanes" for certain kinds of Internet traffic.

Hackbarth points to comments made by John Graham, of the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Roslyn Layton, of Aalborg University's Center for Communication, Media & Information Studies, on how the FCC's ruling threatens innovation in the industry.

They point out a case where UnitedHealth Group and AT&T made an arrangement to allow low-income pregnant women to view care videos on cellphones without using extra data. However, those in favor of net neutrality said the program was discriminatory--and the FCC's new rules allow for the regulation of such a program.

As for the economic costs, Hackbarth mentions a recent post in the Wall Street Journal by Hal Singer, a senior fellow of the Progressive Policy Institute. In that post, Singer says the FCC's interference will cause a slowdown in healthcare for services like telemedicine and virtual reality. In addition, he says, apps may require a "paid priority" to work.

"By applying last century's regulatory approach to 21st Century networks, net neutrality will flip the model entrepreneurs have used to transform the Internet into an integral part of our economy," Hackbarth writes. This will mean innovators will have to ask the FCC for permission before they can begin a project, he adds.

The reaction to net neutrality in the health industry has been mixed. Many see it as a positive, saying private companies with deeper pockets should not get preferential treatment over those with less means, while some argue that defining the Internet as a public utility, in essence, already is a first step toward creating a fast lane for health data, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

In addition, there have been some in the industry who have said it is central to planning for health information exchange. Others have said healthcare leaders need to get involved in the debate, by determining how such a change would affect their organization and by addressing it with others in their organization.

To learn more:
- read Hackbarth's post