A dazzling future was on display in Washington, DC last week at a Congressional hearing on the "Internet of Things" (IoT). The IoT is a network in which objects - vehicles, healthcare services, consumer goods, to name a few - are connected to the Internet in order to provide more valuable and efficient services. These emerging technologies combine with traditional manufacturing to produce a surge in economic opportunity, benefits in healthcare, infrastructure and the environment.
There's just one thing that possibly stands in the way of expanding this innovative technology to virtually all Americans: the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Internet regulation that could quite possibly inhibit innovation and investment in state-of-the-art Internet-based technologies both now and in the future.
The Committee heard testimony about developments taking place that would have seemed like science fiction 20 years ago: an automaker that wirelessly updates its cars' software to enable "self-driving," or a technology company that recently saw a $9 million return on a pilot program using connected machines to troubleshoot maintenance before problems arose.
As technology analyst Dan Castro testified that day, the IoT is a key to helping the U.S. upgrade its infrastructure. Investing in communications networks solves productivity and safety issues - in other words, helping to create jobs and improve our quality of life. Technology is clearly moving in a direction that plays to America's traditional economic strength: break-the-mold invention and innovation.
But there's a potential major problem confronting this progress: last month's FCC decision to place the innovative, fast-paced high-speed Internet - including the mobile web - under 80-year-old Title II utility style regulation. By its own admission, the FCC could not document a single violation since 2010 to justify regulating the Internet like a public utility. After decades of a bipartisan light touch that enabled the Internet to flourish to the Internet we enjoy today, this new federal micromanagement is unprecedented in Internet history.
That's why many are calling on Congress to intervene to both protect the Internet as we know it as well as to correct the FCC's overreach. Only an act of Congress would carry both the legal heft and certainty to protect the Internet and enable it's continue growth. One of the driving catalysts of this call for legislative action is that the future build-out of America's high-speed Internet service will require tens of billions of private sector investment. Without this investment, consumers will not be able to experience the full benefits of the Internet of Things.
Facing the cold hard reality of many years of litigation as a result of the FCC's recent action, businesses will not have the certainty they need in order to invest this type of capital.
This new IoT revolution has the potential to touch and improve every part of the U.S. economy. At this critical time in our nation's technological advancement, our federal regulations should not be looking back just as the technology sector is working to move us forward. If we are to see the full benefits these technological advances potentially promise, it's up to Congress to find a way to come together to move quickly and create a 21st century law for our 21st century Internet.