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DelBene, Katko Introduce ‘Internet of Things’ Legislation to Prepare U.S. for Future Demand

Today, Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and John Katko (NY-24) reintroduced the Internet of Things (IoT) Readiness Act, bipartisan legislation that would prepare the U.S. for the continued growth of IoT devices and devices that use 5G networks. 

IoT devices, ranging from fitness watches to sensors that monitor traffic, require significant spectrum capacity so that information, such as time, location, and temperature, can be transmitted to and from other devices. Spectrum is a limited resource and if the available capacity cannot accommodate all the devices in the same vicinity, the signals will interfere with each other and cause them to fail. The IoT Readiness Act directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to collect and provide Congress with the data needed to be prepared for the continued growth of these devices and their connectivity needs.

As a recent example, after the introduction of smartphones over the last decade, the number of devices that could access the internet increased dramatically. Cellular networks became overwhelmed, and the FCC had to go through the lengthy and burdensome process of reallocating spectrum. Now, IoT devices are facing the same problem.

In 2015, a family of four had an average of 10 IoT devices connected to the internet. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that that average will increase to 50 devices per family by 2022.

“The explosion in use of IoT devices by families and businesses means we need to ensure we have enough spectrum available to accommodate this growing technology. This bipartisan legislation would require the FCC to assess current spectrum supply and determine how much spectrum is necessary to meet the demands of IoT growth in the future,” said DelBene. “I believe it is time for the FCC to include Congress in the spectrum planning conversation. The United States can’t afford to wait around while other countries are implementing IoT readiness plans. The time for action is now.”

“American consumers are growing increasingly connected to the internet through innovative devices including security systems, home appliances, and vehicles. Our nation’s networks must be prepared to handle advanced levels of usage as household connectivity demand expands,” said Katko. “The Internet of Things Readiness Act enables the Federal Communications Commission to study the amount of spectrum required to satisfy current and future consumer demand. As Co-Chair of the Internet of Things Caucus, I am proud to reintroduce this legislation with Congresswoman DelBene.”

In 2014, the FCC’s Technical Advisory Council advised the FCC to implement a plan that would ensure adequate spectrum is available and monitor the growth of IoT devices. FCC officials stated that when it comes to tracking spectrum demand that it “does not focus on specific devices,” rather the FCC will issue new spectrum when it is needed. Without adequate data, we risk not having access to enough spectrum to support the growth of IoT devices. 

Other countries with similar IoT growth to the U.S are implementing proactive spectrum plans that focus on how to manage increased IoT usage. South Korea plans to double its available spectrum by 2026 to support future innovations such as smart homes, smart factories, smart cities, and unmanned vehicles. France and the Netherlands are requiring there be enough spectrum available for the anticipated increase in smart city IoT device applications that operate solely on unlicensed spectrum.

DelBene and Katko are the co-chairs of the Internet of Things Caucus. The text of the Internet of Things Readiness Act can be found here.