As the Republican Congress and Donald Trump's FCC move to dismantle the most basic protections for American internet users, no target is juicier than Net Neutrality, the simple idea that your ISP should send you the bits you ask for, rather than accepting bribes from big companies to slow down your net connection when you try to connect to their competitors.
The FCC is moving swiftly to dismantle the minimal Net Neutrality regulations it has enforced to date, and the Senate is taking legislative aim at Net Neutrality to prevent the Commission from protecting Net Neutrality in the future. During a hearing, Sen Ron Johnson [R-WI/Twitter/email/DC office (202) 224-5323] gave the case for a non-neutral net: "is that a pretty good analogy in terms of what net neutrality is all about, not allowing for example a company that is going to invest billions of dollars in the pipeline, not allow them to sell a prioritized lane, for, I don't know, doctors who want to prioritize distant diagnostics? They're going to have to share that same pipeline, no prioritization, with for example people streaming illegal content or pornography? Tell me where that analogy is maybe not accurate."
(He's also the senator who threatened to have a constituent arrested if he didn't stop calling his office)
Net neutrality protections apply only to lawful Internet content, so the FCC rules do not prevent ISPs from blocking the illegal content that Johnson is worried about. ISPs can still block copyright-infringing materials and child pornography, for example. And if paid prioritization was legal, it wouldn't necessarily be used only for healthcare and other things that Johnson wants prioritized—pornography businesses could presumably pay for faster network access as well. Net neutrality proponents argue that the potential existence of paid fast lanes would necessarily put everything else in a slower lane.
Perhaps more importantly, there is a way for telemedicine offerings to get paid prioritization under the FCC's existing rules. The FCC distinguishes between "Broadband Internet Access Service (BIAS)," the usual type in which all Internet content shares the same network capacity and "Non-BIAS data services," which are given isolated capacity to ensure greater speed and reliability. VoIP phone offerings, heart monitors, and energy consumption sensors qualify for this category, which is exempt from net neutrality rules. Telemedicine (another word for remote medical diagnosis) can also be exempt if it's delivered over the network in the same way.
Net neutrality hurts health care and helps porn, Republican senator claims
[Jon Brodkin/Ars Technica]