Skip to main content

NCTA: Don’t Rush to Regulate IoT

WASHINGTON — The government already knows how to regulate — or, as cable operators might say, “overregulate” — the provision of the Internet of bits and bytes. Now, the White House’s chief telecom policy adviser is looking for ideas on how to approach the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things (IoT) comprises all of those Web-connected appliances, cars and other devices that are poised to become not just a new data stream, but a new revenue stream for Internet- service providers. Those ISPs, often labeled as gatekeepers by policymakers, are in prime position to be gateways to those Web-connected cars, homes and businesses.

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration has been collecting comments on how it should approach — and promote — the IoT. It’s no surprise the IoT would be high on the Obama administration’s list of issues.

Within a couple of years, 90% of companies will be employing the technology, according to a new IoT study released by the Telecommunications Industry Association. And as stakeholders have found when it came to issues like network neutrality and set-top boxes, what the White House concludes about a telecom policy issue can translate to pressure from President Obama to take a particular action.

Even without that threat, stakeholders were likely to advise the government not to rush in and regulate the IoT, and that was clearly the case with cable operators.

In comments to the NTIA last week, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said the government should focus on freeing up the necessary spectrum, while holding off on regulating the space.

The NCTA said regulatory restraint and caution should be the hallmarks of any FCC or government policy. It said there was still much uncertainty with the IoT, so refraining from intervention was the order of the day. But what’s not uncertain is the need to free up more spectrum, cable operators said.

The NCTA used the docket to put in a plug for protecting cable WiFi — and by extension the IoT devices that use that WiFi spectrum — from interference.

While the NCTA wants the government to exercise regulatory restraint — to favor marketplace forces over privacy regulations, for example — the trade group said regulators should also “establish rules of the road that prevent other users that share spectrum with WiFi from unduly interfering with WiFi and IoT usage.”

Wireless carriers plan to launch LTE-U wireless service to provide their own alternative to WiFi in the 5-GHz spectrum cable operators now use for their principal wireless broadband play. Last week, cable MSOs reiterated a point they’ve made to the FCC before: LTE-U could create “massive interference problems for WiFi users.”

IoT 101

WASHINGTON — Just what is the Internet of Things? The Federal Trade Commission, which told the FCC that IoT-specific privacy regulations would be premature, defines it as: “[T]he ability of everyday objects to connect to the Internet to send and receive data.”

That includes consumer-facing devices like wearables, phones and appliances, as well as automated machine-to-machine communications like hotel electricity monitors or Internet-connected jet engines.

Not surprisingly, it is one of the marketmoving tech categories identified by the Telecommunications Industry Association as driving the $1.45 trillion in U.S. information and communications technology (ICT) spending this year.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.