Net Neutrality Can Harm Your Health

Last November, Independent institute Senior Fellow William Shughart wrote a couple of blot posts (here and here) skeptical of President Obama’s intention to impose so-called net neutrality on the Internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally imposed net neutrality with some 300 pages of rules last February.

I learned from Roslyn Layton of the American Enterprise Institute that the net-neutrality rule threatens one of the most promising areas of innovation in health care—using mobile devices to maintain and improve people’s health.

An example of this is an arrangement between UnitedHealth Group and AT&T launched last year. UnitedHealth Group wanted to incentivize low-income pregnant women to watch prenatal care videos on their mobile phones without deducting the usage from their mobile account balance. Unfortunately, advocates for net neutrality mischaracterize this program, called “sponsored data,” as discriminatory, and FCC’s new rule gives the agency the power to regulate this kind of preventive health care out of existence.

The principle that the FCC can prevent a health plan or provider from sponsoring data over the Internet to a patient (at no marginal price to the user) that will prevent illness and future health costs, just because the government does not want a “two-speed Internet,” is a grotesque abuse of power.

John R. Graham is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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