In response to numerous requests for additional time, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) has extended the deadline for Internet of Things (“IoT”) stakeholders to submit comments that will be instrumental in shaping crucial U.S. policies on IoT. This proceeding will critically impact virtually all businesses in the IoT industry, including: RF equipment manufacturers & vendors (including those supplying smart home equipment, wearables, sensors, small cells, distributed antenna systems (“DAS”), and others); platform suppliers; software manufacturers; and service providers. The new deadline is March 13, 2017.
Specifically, NTIA is seeking comments on the preliminary findings in its recently published “green paper”which summarized the comments it received in response to its April 2016 Request for Public Comment. Well over 100 IoT stakeholders submitted comments for the green paper, but many matters remain unsettled. Consequently, NTIA is giving IoT stakeholders one more chance to have their voices heard on the following vital issues:
General Challenges and Opportunities
How should IoT be defined? NTIA solicits comments on how specifically IoT should be defined for regulatory purposes. A universal IoT definition is absolutely critical concerning how IoT will be taxed and regulated. If, for example, IoT is defined as a product, it will be taxed and regulated much differently than if it is defined as a service. If IoT is defined as a service, should it be considered a telecommunications or a lightly-regulated information service?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have already begun grappling with potential health, safety, and security issues arising from the connection of cars and medical IoT devices. How should those agencies develop or revise existing guidelines for the regulation of IoT devices under their jurisdiction?
NTIA cites concerns about how IoT might impact the existing industrial infrastructure. Comments are sought on matters pertaining to: (a) IoT’s effects on infrastructure architecture, business models and stability; (b) how to minimize IoT’s disruptions to the infrastructure; and (c) the government’s role with respect to alleviating infrastructure disruptions caused by IoT implementation
Barriers to Entry
Laws, Regulations and Polices. NTIA seeks comments on current or planned laws, regulations or policies that foster IoT development and reduce barriers to entry. Should any of these laws, regulations or polices be modified or improved? If so, how?
Cybersecurity & Privacy
Cybersecurity. IoT implementation presents many new and unique security challenges. Users need to trust that IoT devices and related services are secure from vulnerabilities. Poorly secured IoT devices and services can serve as potential entry points for cyberattack and exposure for data theft. Consequently, NTIA wants stakeholders to provide information concerning: (a) their most important IoT cybersecurity issues; (b) how they may differ from other cybersecurity issues; and (c) what actions the federal government should take regarding policies and/or standards in regards to IoT cybersecurity.
Privacy. IoT raises concerns about increased surveillance, and the ways in which personal data is collected, analyzed, used, and protected. NTIA seeks comments on privacy concerns specifically raised by IoT, and how they are different from other privacy concerns. For example: (a) specific consumer protection issues that are of concern; (b) privacy issues specifically related to how IoT is categorized; and (c) policies the federal government should take in response to specific privacy issues.
Economic Equity. NTIA asks for information on how IoT could potentially help disadvantaged communities or groups. Examples include: (a) how could rural communities could benefit from IoT; (b) IoT implementation challenges and economic obstacles for disadvantaged communities; and (c) role(s) the federal government should take in ensuring that the positive elements of IoT reach all Americans, while protecting disadvantaged communities from being disproportionately impacted by the negatives.
Interoperability. The current fragmented IoT technical environment can inhibit value for the industry and its customers. Issues such as integration inflexibility and ownership complexity are on the minds of many stakeholders. NTIA seeks comment on specific interoperability issues that are of concern, and details as to how they might best be remedied.
Standards. NTIA is concerned about the problem of insufficient, contradictory proprietary standards and platforms. Accordingly, NTIA requests information on appropriate standards and best practices that could alleviate this critical issue.
Spectrum Availability and Potential Congestion/Interference. IoT makes substantial demands on available wireless spectrum. As more and more IoT devices and services enter the marketplace, the potential for interference with other service increases exponentially. NTIA seeks comments on spectrum usage and allocation (licensed or unlicensed spectrum), equipment authorization, and related issues that could help mitigate spectrum scarcity and interference problems.
NTIA acknowledges that other nations’ IoT implementation policies could cause problems for the U.S.: “[C]ountry specific strategies threaten the possibility of a global patchwork of approaches to IoT, which would increase costs and delay the launch of new products, dampening investment.” With the goal of working with stakeholders to take a “holistic, ecosystem-wide view that identifies opportunities and assesses risks across the digital economy,” NTIA seeks comments on: (a) factors NTIA should consider in international engagement, e.g., standards and specific organizations, bilateral and multilateral engagement, and industry alliances; (b) Internet governance issues; (c) factors that could impede the growth of IoT outside the U.S., e.g., data or service localization or other barriers to trade; and (d) how the U.S. government should address these matters.
Participation is Critical
Several IoT stakeholders, as well as those that wish to impose higher barriers to entry to IoT suppliers, submitted comments earlier in this proceeding. The short window of time for stating your business’s position on these vital matters will soon close. If the government does not hear your concerns, your business may end up being forced to comply with restrictive government regulations and policies, not to mention tax liability that could add significantly to your cost of doing business. Any stakeholder that wishes to influence how IoT regulations will be implemented should participate in this proceeding.
The CommLaw Group has specialists that are available to answer any questions you may have regarding wireless broadband spectrum allocation, equipment authorization, and related matters. We deal regularly with applicable regulatory agencies and can assist you with various legal and compliance matters.
IoT Attorney Ronald E. Quirk, is head of the Internet of Things & Connected Devices Practice Group at Marashlian & Donahue PLLC, The CommLaw Group, where he focuses his practice on the serving the comprehensive needs of the burgeoning and complex Internet of Things industry, including: contracts and commercial law, privacy & cybersecurity, spectrum access, equipment authorization, tax, regulatory compliance planning, and more. His career has spanned more than 20 years, including several years at AMLAW 100 firms and the FCC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 714-1305.