IoT and Network Neutrality

In all of the news around the FCC’s net neutrality deliberations, I haven’t seen much discussion around what the network means to the future of the Internet of Things (IoT). The focus for now is on the current users of the majority of the internet bandwidth, Netflix and other video providers, and rightfully so. Compared to video streaming, the simple messages passed back and forth to network connected devices are an order of magnitude smaller. So why discuss network neutrality in the context of IoT?

As IoT technologies expand into industry, companies will rely more and more on the real-time data points from throughout their infrastructure. This data will become essential to understanding what is happening at any given time, so all of those IoT messages and what they tell the business will become valuable. As more things are monitored, the number of devices and volume of data from those devices will also increase.

At some point will these messages get important enough that businesses will pay for better networks and higher delivery rates? The answer is yes, and the solution at that point will be private networks that the business controls, because it will be worthwhile to do so. Companies like the France-based Sigfox are already building alternate networks to serve these needs in some parts of the ecosystem. But even these offerings will rely on the open internet to ultimately get data to a customer’s servers.

The open internet needs to remain open for us to get to that point. Consumer services and entry level devices and services for small businesses need to run well enough on the open internet for users to get value and for the IoT ecosystem to develop without being crippled by potential network taxes. Even large companies need to be able to focus on deploying new IoT infrastructure without worrying about whether their real-time data is really as close to real time as they need it to be.

ISPs, as network experts, need to see this for the opportunity it is. As network use expands, the pie of users gets bigger, which increases the opportunity for them. Setting up limits on networks will only slow development of IoT and hobble the growth the ISPs can tap into, ultimately leading to less profit going forward.

The network neutrality debate may become a huge factor for the development of IoT in addition to all the other areas it will impact. For the sake of the amazing potential of this new platform, networks need to remain ubiquitous, stable, and neutral. There are plenty of other parts of the IoT system we do need to figure out without spending time on the parts that are already solved.

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