Could net neutrality hinder healthcare innovation?

Net neutrality has largely been deemed a win for consumers, ensuring free and open Internet access to individuals. Under the protection of net neutrality, huge Internet and data providers and organizations are not allowed to purposefully manage or alter connectivity speeds and access.

However, a recent perspective in iHealthBeat written by John Graham of the National Center for Policy Analysts and Roslyn Layton of Aalborg University's Center for Communication, Media and Information Studies, suggests that net neutrality may be detrimental to healthcare innovation.

The authors provide the example of an arrangement between UnitedHealth Group and AT&T where the payer wanted low-income pregnant women to watch prenatal care videos on their mobile phones and not be charged for the data usage. Such an arrangement, under net neutrality laws, would be deemed discriminatory, according to the authors.

"[Federal Communication Commission's] new rule gives the agency the power to regulate this kind of preventive healthcare out of existence," according to the authors.

This becomes especially concerning when looking at how mobile tech is emerging as a key tool to help manage chronic conditions and keep healthcare costs low, the authors wrote.

"If allowed, these new technologies will emerge with new business models. Managing chronic diseases and enabling healthcare by mobile applications represents low-hanging fruit not only to reduce healthcare costs, but to improve patient outcomes," the authors wrote. "It would seem that healthcare providers could subsidize their patients' mobile subscriptions outright because of the high cost-benefit ratio. But that possibility will be obliterated by FCC and net neutrality extremists who believe that the consumer should bear all the costs of connectivity."

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