Will the End of Net Neutrality Kill the Internet of Things?

January 19, 2018 - 4 minutes read

When the FCC repealed Net Neutrality a month ago, everything felt hopeless. Leading up to the decision date, many Internet advocates wrote to the FCC, called their state representatives, and emailed their family and friends to do the same. 200 tech companies and developers from San Francisco and beyond also signed a letter detailing how repealing Net Neutrality would result in less domestic profit, innovation, and consumer loss.

But even with the scandal surrounding fake submissions in favor of repealing Net Neutrality, the FCC’s unhindered and uninformed decision to repeal Net Neutrality made all of us rethink what the words “democracy” and “freedom” truly mean.

While the dissolution of Net Neutrality will change every industry’s and consumer’s future, one particular future technology faces larger difficulty in advancing over the years — the Internet of Things (IoT). Growing at a staggering pace, the IoT absolutely relies on an open and free Internet to bring the best user experience to consumers and enterprises alike.

A New Frontier of “Freedom”

By 2020, Forbes estimates 30 billion devices will be connecting to the Internet. So if you think 4G is already slow, just wait until the end of the year or next year. With open connectivity and collaboration, users can transmit data back to the IoT parent, which can signal other devices to make changes as needed. But with slower data connections, IoT is hindered from doing its main job seamlessly.

It’s the internet service providers (ISPs) who will benefit monetarily from the repeal of Net Neutrality. These companies have enormous responsibilities to bring high-speed Internet access to American citizens. The ISPs have no government regulation because they have spent billions of dollars lobbying to control as much of their industry as possible. Their plan is to force their customers to foot the bill for faster speeds, and the U.S. government won’t do anything about it.

IoT naturally levels the playing field for app developers against companies intent on monopolizing the market. If you have a great idea that connects to Alexa or Google Assistant, you can create products as add-ons and still make a pretty penny. But without Net Neutrality, a bootstrapping IoT developer has no chance against a multi-billion dollar company, who can afford to buy the fastest speed package. If you thought the odds were already stacked against the underdogs, you may be in for a rude awakening when Net Neutrality is completely gone.

More Coin for Connectivity

AI, big data, cloud computing, and more will all ultimately face limitations that may cause consumers to run to competitors. These technical fields of the future cannot work seamlessly without a fast Internet connection, and as always, the consumer will lose in the form of buggy interfaces, slow-to-load browsers, and a decrease in innovation overall. Unless, of course, they cough up more money.

The future of IoT is uncertain in the face of Net Neutrality’s end; while it’s not completely banished, IoT will evolve and work within the constraints set by networks, devices, and consumers. It’s the interconnectivity part of IoT that has experts and developers worried, and rightly so. If ISP corporations are actively trying to limit connectivity already, what will they do in a few years, when the burgeoning IoT industry has a much greater market value?

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