IoT proposals await NTIA's political leadership

A federal tech agency put its internet of things policy on hold while as new leader faces Senate confirmation.

Shutterstock image: internet of things, connectivity.
 

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is waiting for its new political leadership before it can begin implementing its proposals for "internet of things" expansion.

NTIA issued a paper in January, before the Trump administration took office, on how to support the expanding universe of internet-connected devices, followed by a request for public and stakeholder comment.

At Forum Global's IoT Summit on Oct. 10, Evelyn Remaley, deputy associate administrator of NTIA's Office of Policy Analysis and Development, said that in putting together input from stakeholders, NTIA is focusing on four major areas to support internet of things expansion.

The agency is focused on making sure infrastructure is available to support the connected device ecosystem; crafting policies that don't interfere with innovation while helping users; creating voluntary standards to ensure interoperability; and encouraging the marketplace.

However, NTIA is still awaiting its political leadership before it can put the January paper's proposals and the solicited public comments into action.

The White House nominated David Redl, who most recently served as chief counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to head NTIA, but the Senate has yet to confirm him.

Where NTIA is impacted by the absence of political leadership, said Remaley, is in directing a "vision for what's next," she said.

That is not to say NTIA isn't busy.

As directed by the White House's cybersecurity executive order, the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security are continuing to move ahead with developing ways to protect against botnets and distributed denial of service attacks. The two departments are preparing to submit their draft reports in January 2018, she said.

"IoT security is also integral to the executive order on strengthening cybersecurity," Remaley added.

One suggestion that could be included in the report, she said, is possibly adding a "nutrition label" of software information that would provide "more knowledge of what software components are in [a connected] device so that when something hits, you know how to patch it."

She added that the federal government can, "by becoming an early adopter... jump start the market and set a strong example of how to deploy IoT" rather than writing strict regulations.

Neil Chilson, the acting chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission, which has resisted writing regulations, said, "from the FTC's perspective, there are clear incentives to many actors in this space to protect consumers," but noted FTC's role as a law enforcement agency as "one of the key ways to shift incentives."

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