Companies manufacturing “smart” products in the virtually unregulated Internet of Things (“IoT”) space may soon find themselves inviting regulation from the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”). The FCC, which regulates interstate and international communications under the auspices of the United States Congress, plans to hold the first incentive auction of broadcast television spectrum in the first quarter of 2016. Spectrum is the radio frequency over which all wireless communications signals travel. In order to ensure efficient operations and to gain potential competitive advantage, IoT companies, including hardware manufacturers, may seek to enter the incentive auction as non-traditional bidders or, at the very least, lobby the FCC to issue rules that protect the band of unlicensed spectrum where most IoT devices currently operate. What strategy these companies can and will pursue turns in significant part on the procedures that the FCC adopts for the incentive auction.
Originally slated for announcement and vote at an open meeting on July 16, 2015, the FCC is now scheduled to disclose the incentive auction procedures this Thursday, August 6, 2015, at an open meeting at 10:30 a.m. EDT. Also scheduled for consideration at the August 6, 2015 meeting is a Report and Order that adopts technical and operational rules for unlicensed services in the broadcast television bands and in the post-incentive auction 600 MHz band. With such significant matters on the agenda, the FCC’s upcoming open meeting could have vast ramifications for IoT. Stay tuned for a follow-up post after the meeting.