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DIGIT Act Defines Framework for U.S. Internet of Things Policy

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The Commerce Committee in the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the "Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things (DIGIT) Act." The bi-partisan bill requires "the establishment of a working group tasked with identifying proposals meant to facilitate IoT growth."

The bill follows-up on a March 2015 resolution that called for a national strategy that would "incentivize the development of the Internet of Things," "prioritize accelerating [its] development and deployment" and ensure it "responsibly protects against misuse." This resolution was unanimously passed by the full U.S. Senate, and the new bill passed by the Senate Commerce Committee is expected to pass the full Senate vote as well.

The bill is more a framework for the U.S. government's response to the Internet of Things than a specific set of IoT laws. The bill would:

require the Federal Communications Commission to report on the spectrum required to support a network of billions of devices. It would also convene working groups, composed of public and private sector representatives, to advise Congress on Internet of Things-related policy.

IoT frequency spectrum needs are a growing concern for governments. For example, the United Kingdom's Office of Communications recently allocated new VHF radio spectrum for Internet of Things communication. The United States also opened frequencies from 3550MHz to 3700MHz to new users including private mobile broadband services in April 2015; these frequencies had previously been reserved for military use.

The initial response to the bill within the United States IoT community has been positive. For example, Alex Perala, writing for MobileIDWorld, commented:

It's an encouraging sign given how US government authorities have struggled to come to terms with the rise of the IoT. While some government officials have pressed the issue, sensing both opportunities and risks in the IoT, groups like the Federal Trade Commission have encountered difficulty trying to establish a regulatory framework for such a nebulous concept.

Writing on the HealthITAnalytics site, Jacqueline Belliveau said "Under the DIGIT Act, the FCC and the federal working group would develop guidelines to increase the innovation of IoT technologies, such as healthcare wearables and mobile health applications, and encourage the development of more health-related IoT technologies. The DIGIT Act may also help the healthcare industry develop security frameworks when it comes to the IoT."

The Security Industry Association publicly applauded the provision for "highlighting the wide range of IoT issues under the working group's directed report. Specifically, we feel that ensuring privacy and security is of paramount importance since it could become a potential barrier to successful deployment of IoT technologies."

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