GAO: FCC Needs to Consider How Connected Toasters Could Clog the Spectrum


The internet of things could eat up spectrum, but the FCC isn’t doing enough to anticipate strains.

Amid controversy surrounding a Federal Communications Commission plan to dismantle net neutrality, a federal watchdog warns that the agency should be keeping an eye on the internet of things.

Phones, cameras, cars, traffic sensors and fitness trackers make up part of a global network of billions of devices known as the internet of things. Those devices rely on the spectrum, bands of radio frequency that the FCC doles out for commercial and nonfederal use. The FCC also authorizes certain bands for unlicensed use. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, within the Commerce Department, allocates spectrum for federal use.

A Government Accountability Office audit concluded the FCC needs to do a better job tracking the new pressures internet of things devices would put on the spectrum.

“By overwhelming existing networks before FCC can make more spectrum available, rapid growth in spectrum demand could slow or halt IoT’s potential to facilitate economic growth,” the report said.

Specifically, the FCC needs to track the growth of high-bandwidth internet of things devices and the devices that use unlicensed spectrum, GAO recommended.

Tracking those areas might help the FCC prevent interference between systems operating on adjacent bands. It would also help the FCC ensure that high bandwidth devices do not overwhelm certain networks.

The FCC “did not believe these actions are necessary,” but would direct a Technical Advisory Council to review the growth of the internet of things.  The FCC currently broadly monitors spectrum demand but does not specifically chart high bandwidth and unlicensed spectrum devices.