Viewpoint: FCC's plan to end net neutrality may hurt telehealth

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The Federal Communications Commission's plan to make network neutrality voluntary may exacerbate health disparities, four public health and technology experts wrote in a Health Affairs blog post.

Net neutrality rules, which were established in 2015, "[prohibit] broadband providers from elevating one kind of content over another," according to The New York Times. This predictable infrastructure is the same principle telemedicine relies on, according to the blog post authors.

"For telemedicine to be scalable and positively impact cost and outcomes, there must be a predictable infrastructure connecting patients, care providers and technology," they wrote. "What happens to telehealth if Netflix traffic is preferred above medical applications? Could Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer better services for one hospital system than another, helping them take over telehealth in a region?"

The authors encouraged the FCC to consider these concerns, which might particularly affect underserved Americans. "We urge the FCC to investigate the unintended consequences of policy changes to ensure that they do not amplify issues of health disparities in lower income and rural populations," they concluded.

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