Bipartisan Internet of Things Resolution Introduced in Senate

by on March 4, 2015 · 0 comments

A new bipartisan “sense of the Senate” resolution was introduced today calling for “a national strategy for the Internet of Things to promote economic growth and consumer empowerment.” [PDF is here.] The resolution was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who are all members of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees these issues. Just last month, on February 11th, the full Commerce Committee held a hearing titled “The Connected World: Examining the Internet of Things,” which examined the policy issues surrounding this exciting new space.

[Update: The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the resolution on the evening of March 24th, 2015.]

The new Senate resolution begins by stressing the many current or potential benefits associate with the Internet of Things (IoT), which, it notes, “currently connects tens of billions of devices worldwide and has the potential to generate trillions of dollars in economic opportunity.” It continues on to note how average consumers will benefit because “increased connectivity can empower consumers in nearly every aspect of [our] daily lives, including in the fields of agriculture, education, energy, healthcare, public safety, security, and transportation, to name just a few.” And then the resolution also discussed the commercial benefits, noting, “businesses across our economy can simplify logistics, cut costs in supply chains, and pass savings on to consumers because of the Internet of Things and innovations derived from it.” More generally, the Senators argue “the United States should strive to be a world leader in smart cities and smart infrastructure to ensure its citizens and businesses, in both rural and urban parts of the country, have access to the safest and most resilient communities in the world.”

In light of those amazing potential benefits, the resolution continues on to argue that while “the United States is the world leader in developing the Internet of Things technology,” an even more focused and dedicated policy vision is needed to promote continued success. “[W]ith a national strategy guiding both public and private entities,” it argues, “the United States will continue to produce breakthrough technologies and lead the world in innovation.” 

Toward that end, the resolution says that it is the sense of the Senate that:

(1) the United States should develop a national strategy to incentivize the development of the Internet of Things in a way that maximizes the promise connected technologies hold to empower consumers, foster future economic growth, and improve our collective social well-being;

(2) the United States should prioritize accelerating the development and deployment of the Internet of Things in a way that recognizes its benefits, allows for future innovation, and responsibly protects against misuse;

(3) the United States should recognize the importance of consensus-based best practices and communication among stakeholders, with the understanding that businesses can play an important role in the future development of the Internet of Things;

(4) the United States Government should commit itself to using the Internet of Things to improve its efficiency and effectiveness and cut waste, fraud, and abuse whenever possible; and,

(5) using the Internet of Things, innovators in the United States should commit to improving the quality of life for future generations by developing safe, new technologies aimed at tackling the most challenging societal issues facing the world.

This is a pretty solid statement from this group of Senators, who appear committed to advancing a pro-innovation, pro-growth approach to the emerging Internet of Things universe of technologies. This is exciting because this reflects the strong bipartisan approach American policymakers adopted two decades ago for the Internet more generally. America’s unified, “light-touch” Internet policy vision worked wonders for consumers and our economy before, and it can happen again thanks to a vision like the one these four Senators floated today.

As I explained in more detail when I testified at the February 11th Senate Commerce hearing on IoT issue:

America took a commanding lead in the digital economy because, in the mid-1990s, Congress and the Clinton administration crafted a nonpartisan vision for the Internet that protected “permissionless innovation” — the idea that experimentation with new technologies and business models should generally be permitted without prior approval. Congress embraced permissionless innovation by passing the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and rejecting archaic Analog Era command-and-control regulations for this exciting new medium. The Clinton administration embraced permissionless innovation with its 1997 “Framework for Global Electronic Commerce,” which outlined a clear vision for Internet governance that relied on civil society, voluntary agreements, and ongoing marketplace experimentation. This nonpartisan blueprint sketched out almost two decades ago for the Internet is every bit as sensible today as we begin crafting a policy paradigm for the Internet of Things

I view this new Senate resolution on the Internet of Things as an effort to freshen up and extend that original vision that lawmakers crafted for the Internet back in the mid-1990s.  As I documented in my recent essay, “Why Permissionless Innovation Matters,” that vision has worked wonders for American consumers and our modern economy. Meanwhile, our international rivals languished on this front because they strapped their tech sectors with layers of regulatory red tape that thwarted digital innovation.

We got policy right once before in the United States, and we can get it right again with a policy vision like that found in this new Senate resolution for the Internet of Things.


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