In his quest to scrap the net neutrality rules, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has made a number of dubious claims about the regulations.
The latest example occurred Thursday, when he said that repealing the net neutrality regulations, including the current ban on paid fast lanes, will boost telemedicine.
"By ending the outright ban on paid prioritization, we hope to make it easier for consumers to benefit from services that need prioritization -- such as latency-sensitive telemedicine," Pai said in a speech on aging and technology. "By replacing an outright ban with a robust transparency requirement and FTC-led consumer protection, we will enable these services to come into being and help seniors."
But contrary to Pai's suggestion, the current rules already allow providers to create fast lanes for telemedicine. The current regulations are often characterized as including "bright-line" prohibitions against blocking, throttling or paid prioritization. But the actual 400-page regulations include a lot of fine print about those "bright lines," including a footnote stating that telemedicine services could be structured to fall outside of the open Internet rules.
What's more, some health care professionals specifically argued in favor of the ban on paid fast lanes. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged the FCC to prohibit broadband providers from charging higher fees for faster delivery. The group argued that allowing paid prioritization could disadvantage the health care providers that can't compete financially with large companies.
"AAP is opposed to the implementation of paid prioritization because of its detrimental effects on the elimination of health disparities, efficiency of healthcare, and access to health information by parents and caregivers," the group wrote. "If healthcare providers do not have the financial resources necessary to purchase priority Internet access, they may not be able to provide the efficacious, patient-centered, cost effective care recommended as part of the ongoing transformation and reform of our nation's healthcare system."
Pai's remarks about telemedicine aren't the ones being questioned. He has repeatedly insisted that the 2015 net neutrality rules depressed investment -- a claim supported by the industry lobbying group USTelecom, but disputed by other observers. The net neutrality group Free Press, which compiled statistics from stock reports, says total capital expenditure spending by 13 carriers (including Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon) increased in the two years following passage of the net neutrality rules.
He also says that scrapping the net neutrality rules will return the internet to the framework that existed before 2015. In fact, as far back in 2005, the FCC said that broadband providers should follow open internet principles -- meaning that they should refrain from blocking or throttling lawful sites and apps.
An appellate court later ruled that the FCC couldn't enforce those principles. The ruling prompted the FCC to pass net neutrality rules in 2010 that banned providers from blocking sites or competing applications. Those rules were in effect from 2011 until 2014, when a federal appeals court invalidated them on the grounds that broadband wasn't then considered a common carrier service.
The FCC has scheduled a vote on the repeal for December 14.