The revolution in mobile healthcare continues to accelerate: More than 40 million smartphone owners now actively use at least one wellness or fitness app and by an overwhelming margin, they report that their health is improving because of it.
So why is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) undercutting advances vital to this industry's progress? And how quickly will Congress fix the problem?
Those two questions came to mind as I was reading a interesting new analysis of the FCC's recent vote to place the Internet under Title II utility regulations. With almost surgical precision, Internet analyst Larry Downes dissects the Commission's action, showing how the rules could violate multiple areas of federal law.
To give one example, the FCC redefined the entire Internet to make it part of the old, antiquated 1930s era telephone system and therefore subject the modern, dynamic Internet to these 1934 regulations.
As a result, Downes notes, every component on the Internet has been transformed into a telephone service and is therefore subject to utility regulation. The FCC, he warns, "can't rewrite the law by giving a key term an absurd new 'definition' [that contradicts] a consistent string of the agency's own precedents, and even basic rules of grammar."
The FCC's vote for Title II regulations will harm the Internet and, by extension, our access to new healthcare apps and services.
My hope is that Congress will work together to resolve these issues quickly so that needed improvements for both the Internet and telehealth technologies aren't delayed by the resultant legal uncertainties or by what is certain to be federal intrusion as, for the first time, layers of federal bureaucracy are added that impair innovators and their new ideas.
A Congressional action - narrowly focused to ensure Internet openness but without the overreach of Title II - would keep innovation moving.
Over the years, mobile and Internet-based healthcare services have emerged as an effective and affordable healthcare solution. As Commissioner Mignon Clyburn stated last fall, "Broadband-enabled solutions, can help communities better manage chronic disease, address language barriers, improve health literacy... and help improve overall population health and wellness."
While Commissioner Clyburn is right about the benefits of Internet healthcare, the FCC's decision to regulate the Internet under Title II authority will simply negate the progress made with these innovative services. That is why Congress must find a legislative solution that will combat the FCC's harmful policy and help mHealth programs become more effective.
The FCC's decision to regulate the Internet is a recipe for stale and uninspired innvovation. With the wireless Internet in particular, America is among the world's leaders and this has enabled our success in creating services to help seniors, people with chronic & debilitating diseases, and millions more who lack easy access to a doctor.
Congress has to both confirm and maintain America's leadership with online healthcare by working together to create and pass a law before the end of this year that extricates the Internet from Title II's overregulation but that permanently ensures an open Internet.
Congress must accept their responsibility to discourage and avoid the unnecessary years of legal wrangling with lawsuits after lawsuits that can be avoided. In the long run it is the consumers that will be the real winnner as innovators can return to what they do best - creating state of the art opportunities for consumers.