What Will IoT Mean for ISPs: Short and Long Term?

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: What Will IoT Mean for ISPs: Short and Long Term?

The IoT (a.k.a. Internet of Things, including everything -- phones, light switches, the random refrigerator, smart TVs, Amazon Echos, etc., etc.) is already a big deal getting bigger.  Just consider: Business Insiderprojects that "there will be 34 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, up from 10 billion in 2015.  IoT devices will account for 24 billion, while traditional computing devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, etc.) will comprise 10 billion."

So far, businesses have been the most active in finding useful ways to adapt things to the Internet.  Most applications are used to track remotely, to gather regular data and to warn of anomalies.  With the introduction of the Echo, however, homes are fast adding to the number of connected things.  Seems voice control was one of those applications just waiting for someone to make it seamless, warm and simple (and it works!).  So home IoT applications are spreading, and spreading fast.

But both business and consumer-oriented IoTs are going to pale as various levels of government and civic services get involved.  In short: Smart cities are on the horizon.  Just consider the following, very partial list of applications: Independent remote-controlled light switches on every streetlight.  Smart traffic signals.  Smart surveillance.  Smarter cops (with GPS info for donut shops).  Smart natural gas and water system monitoring.  And lots more.  Many more billion "things" in place.

All those things will be using the ISPs (a.k.a. any company connecting others to the Internet such as cable, telco, wireless and satellite companies) to move data from source to monitors and back.  With all this data floating around it's no wonder that consumers are getting nervous about automatic data collection.  In a recent survey, about half of those surveyed reported being "creeped out" by what others know about them via the Internet.

So let's put it all together: A proliferation of things connected to the Internet, everyone and their third cousin gathering data via the Internet, consumers getting more and more worried ... and ISPs acting as the hub for all of it.

That makes make ISPs necessities.  In other words, utilities.  Which is why the FCC once heavily regulated Ma Bell (and choked off innovation until one guy connected his two-way radio to the telephone lines).

During the last Administration, the FCC voted to regulate the Internet via Title II, a set of rules that allow for rate regulation.  The current Administration is in the process of dropping Title II for a "light touch."

Do you really think that's gonna last as more and more things, entities and who-knows-whats are connected via ISPs?  As consumers, regulators and Congress folk have more and more cause to worry about who's using "their" data and why?

No way.  So watch for the return of the Internet as utility beginning in 2021.

Random Notes

An interesting fight is stirring between over-the-airheads and MVPDs about the next generation broadcast standards knows as ATSC 3.0; like the digital transition, this one is supposed to allow for continued broadcasting of ATSC 1.0 during a full transition.  Some broadcasters are waffling.

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