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Telecom Issues still Key in Congress: The Internet of Things

Posted By John Chwat, Director, Government Relations, Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Despite information to the contrary that major broadband rewrites of telecom laws will not be started by Congress until 2017, this session of Congress continues to consider telecom bills that are of interest to the industry.  At the beginning of March 2016 a bipartisan bill, S.2607, known as the DIGIT Act or “Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things,” was introduced by Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

The bill directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to undertake a one-year study on the current and future spectrum needs of the Internet of Things (IOT), and to create a “nongovernmental working group” of industry stakeholders, communications suppliers, vendors and businesses to consult with the FCC and other governmental agencies on the IOT, such as consumer protection, privacy, and security.

The senators indicated when the bill was introduced that there are estimated to be over 50 billion devices that will be connected by 2020 and that the IOT will generate trillions of dollars in new IOT technologies. On March 24,2016, the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 110, introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) expressing the sense of the Senate on promoting the IOT as a means of economic growth and consumer empowerment. The resolution recommends the U.S. prioritize accelerating the deployment of the IOT in a “way that allows for future innovation.”

On March 24, 2016 the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade of the Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on “IOT: Exploring the Next Technology Frontier,” at which time the subcommittee highlighted a September, 2013 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for IOT enforcement action alleging that TRENet, a marketer of internet connected home security video cameras called SecurView, failed to use reasonable security to protect consumer’ privacy, even though it claimed in protect product descriptions that the device was secure. The FTC was alerted, according to the subcommittee’s memorandum on the hearing, to this security vulnerability after a hacker breached the software and publicized over 700 private camera feeds on the internet. The FTC released a report on January 21, 2015 on privacy and security risks of technology and called for Congressional legislation in the area.

Last year, on February 11, 2015 the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held its hearing on “The Connected World: Examining the Internet of Things.” Congress will continue its review and encouragement of the IOT which will certainly be high on the agenda for the next Administration, the next FCC leadership and the next 115th Congress to convene Jan. 2, 2017.

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