The United States’ success in the race to 5G is critical, but enabling the Internet of things (IoT) ecosystem is equally important. This Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) in particular has made considerable efforts to expedite the deployment of 5G networks, either through reducing barriers to building infrastructure or through opening up key spectrum bands. Currently, the FCC is instituting a rulemaking to enhance the United States’ 5G-IoT ecosystem in response to the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA’s) petition. This proceeding is preeminent in promoting new and innovative tech on the edge (e.g., connected-health devices) because it can eliminate unnecessary regulatory barriers to entry for new IoT devices. Here, the FCC is taking the right step in rolling back its outdated rules so as to allow IoT companies to safely and responsibly develop their IoT devices without adding more cost or delay to their deployment.
Since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 11, 2020, the average daily broadband usage has gone up an estimated 47%. Conversely, an ancillary effect of the pandemic is an overall 18% drop in new IoT device development. This a concerning statistic as some of the most important IoT use-cases come from connected health and connected education enterprises, which have proven to be essential in these difficult times. What’s more, the need for these types of IoT services predate and will survive the pandemic. Satisfying this consumer demand requires smart, efficient policies to allow innovators to bring these innovative technologies to market faster, while also respond to this ever-changing economic landscape, especially in the advent of 5G. This is why the FCC moving on CTA’s petition is so important to the United States’ success in 5G, because, without the promise of IoT services, 5G networks lose their relevance to consumers and, by extension, those who seek to invest in those networks.
In their current form, the Commission’s rules are overly strict and often require a lengthy and, at times, unnecessary approval process. Such delays can be fatal to nascent technologies, as CTA points out in its petition. CTA’s data demonstrate that these barriers to approval have significantly slowed many companies from bringing their innovative IoT products to market, which, in turn, slows adoption for these technologies which would otherwise enhance a consumer’s 5G experience.
The policy behind the current Commission’s rules on pre-approval marketing and importation is sound but the rules need to be updated to current business practices. The Commission’s rules rightfully seek to ensure that various consumer products will not generate harmful interference, cause safety risks, or defraud consumers before companies can market them to consumers. However, as Commission recognizes in its rulemaking, the market and the way these companies prepare their products for distribution have drastically changed, even compared to last time it modified these very rules a mere 6 years ago. Moreover, consumers can rest assured that other agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Protection Safety Commission, already provide adequate checks on these devices, which makes the FCC’s review in this regard superfluous.
The FCC instituting this rulemaking is just another example of the Pai Commission’s commitment to keep the United States competitive in not just 5G, but also in its use-cases in IoT at large. By exercising regulatory humility in this way, the Commission is allowing for more new and innovative IoT technologies to get into the hands of more consumers expeditiously while maintaining the integrity of consumer safety.