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GeekWire: New bill wants FCC to collect data on IoT devices to assess spectrum needs

Bryan Corliss, GeekWire

Congress needs better data on Americans’ use of smart devices, says Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), so it can plan for the country’s connectivity infrastructure needs.

“IoT and smart devices are growing in popularity in our homes and businesses to improve safety, efficiency, and convenience but that would grind to a halt if we do not have enough 5G spectrum available,” the Congresswoman said in a statement. “The United States can’t afford to wait around.”

DelBene last week introduced legislation to direct the Federal Communications Commission to start collecting data on the growing use of 5G mobile networks and IoT devices.

“In order for the federal government to properly address spectrum requirements, Congress needs to understand the full scope of future spectrum demand,” reads the bill, H.R. 904, which DelBene is calling the “IoT Readiness Act of 2023.”

The FCC manages the nonfederal use of spectrum and has the authority to auction the rights to use specific frequencies for commercial use.

Some estimates suggest demand for 5G services will see compound annual growth anywhere from 25% to nearly 60% over this decade, as more people adopt the new service with its faster download speeds, particularly for video.

Industry forecasters see demand for devices hooked into the internet growing at annual rates of 18% to 26% for the rest of the decade, with that growth accelerating over time as more people and companies adopt IoT platforms.

With those kinds of projections, it’s essential for Congress to understand exactly what consumers need, a DelBene spokesman said.

“We need the data this bill would collect to understand the spectrum needs for the growth of IoT devices and to inform Congress about appropriate policy changes,” the spokesperson said.

During the rollout of smartphones over the past decade, the number of devices that could access the internet increased dramatically. Cellular networks became overwhelmed and the FCC had to reallocate spectrum, the spokesperson noted.

To head off potential problems, DelBene’s bill would direct the FCC to “collect and maintain data on the growth in the use of Internet of Things devices and devices that use 5G mobile networks, in order to determine the amount of electromagnetic spectrum required to meet the demand created by such use.”

The bill would instruct the FCC to determine growth trends for 5G networks and IoT devices, and whether that growth will create a need for more spectrum. The FCC would have 180 days to compile the data for Congress, and then the commission would track and submit updated reports every two years.

The Internet of Things includes household devices like smart speakers, smart thermostats, remote home security systems and even robot vacuum cleaners.

However, it also includes a growing number of retail and industrial applications: Smart vending machines that notify a home office when they’re running out of sodas or chips, smart sensors that can warn a farmer when a high-value crop needs moisture, or remote sensors that can warn an oil company when pumps in a pipeline need maintenance.

DelBene introduced similar legislation in 2021. As House Resolution 981, it was referred to a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee during the 117th Congress, but it advanced no further.

So far, DelBene’s new bill has no cosponsors. Her previous bill was co-sponsored by John Katko, a New York Republican who did not seek reelection in 2022.

The bill will be referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is chaired by Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.).

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