Critical Read

NTIA: The internet of things doesn't need new rules


What: A paper from the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration on how to foster advancement of emerging internet of things technology.

Why: The federal government is trying to figure out how to help the expanding, and largely undefined, universe of internet-connected devices to evolve more effectively and cohesively.

Exactly how to do that is not an easy task. which is why the NTIA has been talking with industry and the public since 2015 about the challenges and opportunities presented by IoT. Most recently it held a workshop last September on the issue.

The NTIA's initial conclusion is that the IoT world doesn't need more regulation. Rather, NTIA said it requires "a reaffirmation rather than a reevaluation of this well-established U.S. government policy approach to emerging technologies."

The agency also found that labeling exactly what an IoT device is can be extremely difficult to do.

Nevertheless, NTIA said it "heard a strong message" in the comments that "coordination among U.S. government partners would be helpful, because of the complex, interdisciplinary, cross-sector nature of IoT."

The agency said it had identified four areas it could use to foster IoT development: infrastructure availability and access, including spectrum and other areas; balanced policy and coalition building; promoting standards and technology; and encouraging markets by using and developing the technology for its own use.

The rise of IoT, it said, will place more pressure on already-stretched spectrum resources.

"Wireless technologies are likely to play a significant role in supporting many of the increasing numbers of connected devices being developed by IoT manufacturers," it said.

Along with existing wireless resources, NTIA said, IoT applications will likely leverage 5G wireless technologies, unlicensed spectrum, low-power connectivity protocols, and other technologies. NTIA said more than a few commenters pointed out that a shortage of available spectrum could constrain IoT growth.

The agency was also concerned about IoT's role in evolving cyberattacks, saying the technologies associated with and incorporated in connected devices can make a bad situation much worse.

Verbatim: A major Internet outage or a cyberattack would never have been without consequence, but IoT raises the stakes significantly, as such events can now affect medical devices, supply chain reliability, and cars driving down the highway, raising the real possibility of physical harm. This represents a shift in the potential physical effects of incidents which, in the past, were generally isolated to industrial control system environments.

Click here to read the full report.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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