LTC advocates, providers decry death of net neutrality

Share this content:

The end of net neutrality could send prices soaring and restrict access to important content, both of which are threats to seniors who live in rural areas or have limited incomes and rely on telemedicine, experts said last week.

Majd Alwan, Ph.D., senior vice president of technology and executive director of the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST), said after Thursday's 3-2 FCC vote to end neutrality that he was “disappointed.

The nation's largest nonprofit-only association had urged the Federal Communications Commission to keep neutrality rules in place and ensuring all internet traffic is treated equally without access fees or speed limitations.

“Our concern has been, and still is, that allowing internet service providers to control internet speed based on users, services used, sites visited, or content streamed, may negatively affect older adults, especially low income seniors, and aging services providers,” Alwan said in an email to McKnight's Friday. “We share a concern that many have that this would lead to an increase internet connectivity cost to maintain speed and/ or affect the quality of services that they need such as telemedicine, telehealth, telemonitoring and social connectedness.”

The FCC voted along party lines Thursday to eliminate a 2015 order requiring neutrality.

That led to quick criticism from hospital organizations and other healthcare providers, who say the potential impact is worst in rural areas without robust internet provider competition.

Tom Morris, associate administrator for rural health at the Health Resources and Services Administration, told Health Data Management that residents in rural areas are disproportionately affected from certain chronic diseases and opioid addiction. He says education and better access to healthcare can make a difference.

Jim Adams, who leads the Health Care IT Research Suite for Advisory Board, told the magazine he is worried the ruling will have implications in non-internet markets because vendors may “pick winners and losers” in telemedicine, data centers and cloud computing services.

Alwan warned the speed and quality of internet connections could falter, hitting services needed by older adults and the providers that serve them “unless they pay much more for the same quality-level they have had for years.”