Heyman: federal regulators threaten net neutrality and your health

Thanks to the internet, the healthcare industry is seeing new innovations that both reduce cost and allow patients to live better lives. Unfortunately, changes to federal regulations put these advancements at risk.

Jared Heyman

With Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s recent announcement the commission is considering rolling back existing open internet protections, I’m concerned that online innovation, often lead by startups like mine, are in jeopardy.

My company CrowdMed grew out of the frustration I felt watching my sister, Carly, suffer through the shortcomings of our healthcare system. Carly was clearly struggling with a serious medical condition, but after seeing nearly two dozen doctors, putting herself through countless medical tests and nearly $100,000 in medical bills, she still had no explanation for her debilitating symptoms. Carly’s case was ultimately solved by the collaboration of an interdisciplinary team of medical experts at a top-notch medical center.

I developed CrowdMed to take this interdisciplinary, team-based model to the next level of sophistication and accessibility by leveraging patented online crowdsourcing technologies. Our platform aggregates the collective intelligence of multiple medical experts at once to lead patients like Carly to a correct diagnosis and cure, much more quickly and less expensively than the traditional healthcare system.

Since launching publicly in April 2013, CrowdMed has helped resolve thousands of real-world medical cases for patients around the world, and this number is quickly growing.

CrowdMed is only able to exist thanks to the unique properties of an open internet. Unlike cable TV, where the only choices available to you are the media companies that have cut deals with your local cable company, the internet is a democratic platform where users have unparalleled choice and can connect with anyone, anywhere.

As the CEO of a company that lives on the internet, I am disturbed by FCC proposals that could jeopardize this freedom. If it is successful in rolling back the ‘net neutrality’ rules, the commission would essentially be giving the greenlight to internet access providers (ISPs) — who are usually big cable and wireless companies — to discriminate among online users and businesses.

Here’s what this means for you: your ISP might decide to speed up access to its own video service, for instance, while leaving YouTube and other competing services in a “slow lane.” Big companies might be able to pay to gain access to the faster lane, but small startups couldn’t. The FCC is even considering allowing the blocking and throttling of internet services.

For companies like mine, this is a real risk. ISPs might choose to partner with other health services and slow down our service. Moreover, by creating a new need to individually negotiate with cable and wireless companies all over the country to ensure users can reach our service, our crowdsourcing model could be at risk. Instead of one open internet where everyone can reach each other, users would be splintered off into limited, closed systems.

The FCC’s claims that they are only trying to implement the existing rules on a different legal footing, but that doesn’t make sense. Federal courts have already said that, in order to effectively ban throttling, paid prioritization schemes, and other forms of online discrimination, the FCC needs to use the existing legal framework that’s already in place.

Changing the legal classification of ISPs would inhibit the government’s ability to protect an open internet and lead to weak, ineffective protections for consumer choice and competition.

I encourage everyone who believes in startups, entrepreneurs, and building our economy to contact the FCC and their congressional representatives to let them know that the existing net neutrality rules should stay.

Please also visit battleforthenet.com and dearfcc.org to get word to our federal officials that we should continue to protect the existing, strong net neutrality rules.

Editor’s note: Mr. Heyman is founder and CEO of CrowdMed

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