Experts weigh in on regulation in Gigabit age

Technology experts predict the advent of super-fast Internet speeds will have a particularly strong impact on healthcare policy in the future but warn of the growing delta between those who have access to the service. 

But experts on a panel Wednesday held by Pew Research and the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) warned that heavy regulation likely would not lead to expanded access for large segments of the United States. 

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“Do Verizon and AT&T beating on each other every day on the television saying ‘I'll get you better, faster, cheaper’ — I believe that is likely to lead to faster high-speed Internet in more places, than us withdrawing and basically saying, ‘OK you guys are now going to be highly regulated industries,’” said Morgan Reed, executive director at The App Association. 

Pew Research released a report Thursday titled “Killer Apps in the Gigabit Age" that surveyed dozens of experts on what technologies will grow out of plans for increased bandwidth in the United States in the next decade. 

Though not a representative sample, more than eight in 10 experts surveyed believe major new technologies will accompany the faster service. Companies like Google and AT&T have plans to roll out super fast connections in small pockets of the United States. Speeds would run at 1 gigabit per second and faster — 50 or 100 times the average speed today.

Reed said his preference is not “anarchy,” and there is a place for anti-trust law, merger reviews and subsidies for underserved areas.   

Similarly, Larry Irving, who is co-chairman of IIA, said when regulations are in question, it is hard for companies to get funding. He previously served as former President Clinton's point person on the Telecommunications Act update in 1996. 

"We are spending about a hundred billion dollars a year, every year, on America's [telecommunications] infrastructure," he said. "I have a hard time seeing how we are going to get more money spent if we have more regulation. It generally doesn't work that way."

Virtual consultations and even medical procedures by doctors were predicted in the report, as well as health monitoring systems that are wearable or implantable.  

"All of the things about virtual reality and using IT linkups to try to get clinicians to provide diagnostic skills and diagnostic capabilities — I think those are going to become far more ubiquitous," said Scott Gottlieb, an MD and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "You could even see procedure based things start to be done virtually." 

Gaming and Entertainment were two of the most highly cited areas of potential growth with faster Internet speeds, according to the report.

—This post was updated at 3:50 p.m. to correct Larry Irving's quote.