Opinion | What’s Really Going on With Net Neutrality?

By: | November 16, 2018 • 2 min read

Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

A natural gas distribution network is considered a public utility. A gas utility has the exclusive authority to install distribution pipes in your street and run pipes to your home. Companies acquire these rights from the State or Federal government. To keep things fair for the gas consumer, the government regulates how much this monopoly can charge you for service.

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Your beautiful home may have a natural gas fireplace, furnace, stove, pool heater, BBQ, clothes dryer and water heater. The gas utility does not dictate what you can buy or connect to the gas network.

The gas utility’s priority is to ensure enough safe and reliable supply of natural gas is in the pipeline system — enough to run as many of your appliances as you choose. In fact, when the gas meter outside your house spins wildly, the gas utility is quite happy. It is making money on that gas delivery. Spin, baby, spin.

Same goes for that cable that comes into your home installed by your community’s internet service provider (ISP). That wire connected to your router allows you to consume data for all your Netflix-ing, Hulu-ing, gaming, Facebook-ing, Instagram-ing, Skype-ing, Spotify-ing, Google-ing, Amazon-buying … ISPs make money on all that consumed data. Consume, baby, consume.

With web growth, comes consumer options. This is an exciting future. Internet highways are best if they accommodate all users, do not discriminate or deliberately slow traffic down.

In this light, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted “net neutrality” rules in 2015. These regulations ensure ISPs give you access to all web content and applications regardless of the source and prevents favoring or blocking products or websites.

But oddly just a mere two years later, the FCC repealed these net neutrality regulations claiming the rules discouraged ISPs from investing in additional capacity.

I am confused.

Like gas utilities, some ISPs have the cost burden of installing, expanding and upgrading infrastructure from which some competitors benefit. But these same telephone and cable companies made back their initial investment when they first entered the market as a monopoly.

To this day, these companies enjoy benefits from having been the first to deploy. Consider all the developments that prospectively wired buildings for future access to new customers.

Historically, ISPs have plowed their profits into expanding network capacity and offerings. It is understood that new networks involve high upfront costs but are comparatively low thereafter. So, every dollar made afterwards is effectively profit.

ISPs can then choose where to deploy profits. They can continue to invest in expanding their delivery capabilities. They can invest in TV stream subscription-based companies. They can invest in data collection systems enabling the sale of consumer internet usage data to the highest bidder. They can invest in lobbying for regulation that essentially allows an ISP to squeeze out any competitor that may want to use your network and force its own products onto captive customers.

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As I see it, this latest rule repeal allows for all the above.

Some states have reinstated their own net neutrality rules and are now fighting the Federal government. But what will happen when John from Nebraska next logs into his Netflix account and gets an extra $30 access charge because his ISP is owned by the corporation that also owns Hulu, a Netflix competitor?

So what all is at risk here?  How about further loss of privacy, loss of consumer choice, free speech restrictions and the overall impairment of an open society. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]