Steve Lohr

Net Neutrality Is Trump’s Next Target, Administration Says

The Trump administration said March 30 that its next move to roll back the regulation of broadband internet service companies would be to jettison the Obama Administration’s network neutrality rules, which were intended to safeguard free expression online. The net neutrality rules, approved by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015, were intended to ensure that no online content is blocked and that the internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else.

In a news conference, White House spokesman Sean Spicer mentioned the net neutrality rules and said President Trump had “pledged to reverse this overreach.” The Obama Administration rules, Spicer said, were an example of “bureaucrats in Washington” placing restrictions on one kind of company — internet service suppliers — and “picking winners and losers.” Telecommunications and cable television companies, the broadband services providers, fought being classified as common carriers. They said the classification opened the door to bureaucratic interference with business decisions that would ultimately reduce incentives to invest and therefore raise prices and hurt consumers.

The Lessons Thus Far From the Transition to Digital Patient Records

Forecasts and studies of the impact of the Obama Administration’s incentive program for digitalization of healthcare have been varied. Some predicted big dollar savings and improved care, while others came to the opposite conclusion, seeing higher costs and medical errors induced by complex technology.

While the principle of the technology-payoff time lag is true in many industries, in health care, there is a case for special vigilance as well as for patience. The more digital patient records and decision-support software become part of diagnosis and treatment, the higher the stakes: In health information technology, there are no clinical trials or tests with randomized controls, as there are for drugs, for example.

True, digital data does not go into the body, but it can increasingly guide what does. That is why the Food and Drug Administration, in cooperation with the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Federal Communications Commission, is developing what the government calls a “risk-based regulatory framework” for digital health technology.

The Privacy Paradox, a Challenge for Business

People around the world are thrilled by the ease and convenience of their smartphones and Internet services, but they aren’t willing to trade their privacy to get more of it.

That is the top-line finding of a new study of 15,000 consumers in 15 countries.

The privacy paradox was surfaced most directly in one question: Would you be willing to trade some privacy for greater convenience and ease?

Worldwide, 51 percent replied no, and 27 percent said yes. (The remainder had no opinion or didn’t know.) There were country-by-country differences, but there was a consistency to the results, especially in the developed nations. The United States was 56 percent no and 21 percent yes. Britain was almost identical -- 55 percent no, 18 percent yes. Germany was most privacy protective -- 71 percent no, and 12 percent yes. India, by contrast, had the highest yes percentage -- 48 percent, to 40 percent no.

The study, conducted by Edelman Berland, a market research firm, and sponsored by EMC, the data storage giant, has some other intriguing results with implications for business. Consumers worldwide seem to strongly agree with the notion that there should be laws “to prohibit businesses from buying an selling data without my opt-in consent” -- 87 percent.

Eric Schmidt Has an Interest. Is It a Conflict?

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D-NY) appointed a three-person commission to offer thoughts on the use of technology in schools. The group, the governor’s office said in a statement, will be “charged with advising the state on how to best invest” the $2 billion the governor plans to raise in a “Smart Schools” bond issue in the fall.

Eric E. Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, is one of the three, but his appointment raised some eyebrows. Schmidt’s company has a commercial interest in seeing more Chromebook computers, which run Google’s Chrome web software, and the company’s productivity applications, Google Apps, being used in schools.

And Schmidt’s appointment struck Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy group with a history of pursuing Google, mostly on privacy issues, as a conflict of interest.

Last month, it sent a letter of protest to Cuomo’s office, and got no reply. On May 12, the watchdog group, based in California, filed a complaint with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, saying that Schmidt has “serious, troubling and unlawful conflicts of interest” that should preclude him from serving on the commission.