On Dec. 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 to end net neutrality, a move that could dramatically limit or reduce internet access for aging services providers and the older adults they serve—particularly low-income older adults and those who live in rural areas. It could keep seniors from accessing telemedicine and other important content.

Majd Alwan, Ph.D., LeadingAge senior vice president of technology and CAST executive director, shared his disappointment with McKnight's Long-Term Care News in "LTC advocates, providers decry death of net neutrality." LeadingAge had urged the FCC to retain net neutrality rules.

Net neutrality, simply put, ensures all online internet traffic is treated equally (open internet). Under net neutrality, all users have equal access to online content, and internet service providers (ISP) cannot provide faster or slower service to specific users, contents, or applications. It protects consumers from ISP blocking or slowing speeds for internet content or applications, or providing higher speeds to those who pay more.
Now that the rules have been repealed, an ISP could slow the internet connection to certain service providers, or low-income older adults, over others based on a “pay to play” tiered approach. This could also negatively affect services such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring services, due to prioritizing premium television streaming and similar services.
Net neutrality also protects older adults from being charged extra for broadband access to important social connectedness technologies like FaceTime, Skype, and other similarly bandwidth-demanding social connectivity applications. Without net neutrality, an ISP could charge an extra monthly fee to access social media sites or use applications such as FaceTime to keep older adults connected to friends and families.

“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. “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.”