AT&T and the Convergence of Policy Issues in the Internet of Things

Just a few years ago it was hard to imagine that Internet of Things (IoT) devices would be ubiquitous. We’ve moved from connected devices in the home to smart technology in our cities, with the biggest recent developments happening with connected cars and fully autonomous vehicles. In fact, it’s estimated that there will be 200 million connected cars on the road by 2020.[1] AT&T has been at the forefront of this innovative industry by listening to our customers, teaming up with auto manufacturers, and working to make sure the technology is safe.

I recently spoke on a panel at the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA) 2017 Regulatory Conference, and shared how AT&T has been a leader in developing IoT technology, connecting a multitude of devices from cars to cargo, and had been a thought leader in the public policy dialogue that has accompanied the industry’s movement. At every step of the way, we have remained aware and engaged in the complex convergence of policy issues resulting from the expansion of the IoT.

But it has not been an easy road. It can be challenging to create a policy framework in a highly dynamic industry with rapid innovation. The government and industry should strike a balance that protects consumers but also incentivizes the huge investment needed to support the high and low bandwidth services in the connected device market as well as adequately address potential cybersecurity issues.

That’s why AT&T has developed a four-level approach to address enterprise security with connected cars and the IoT. Our approach tackles challenges from the device itself, its connectivity, its data and applications, and finally threat-analysis in the context of its use. Within the vast IoT space, while used completely differently, a connected car or unmanned aircraft have some significant similarities as something like a smart refrigerator. So it’s important to take a comprehensive approach to the myriad of both technical and policy issues across all platforms.

Policy frameworks should encourage voluntary frameworks and public/private cooperation. Where necessary, regulation should be applied in a horizontally consistent way across the industry in a technology neutral manner. Each company or innovator should have the freedom to choose the technology that best allows them to optimize technological capabilities without the additional challenge of navigating separate policy frameworks. Light touch regulation is the best way to ensure that the IoT can continue developing and reach its full potential but also help protect consumers’ privacy and security.

AT&T is a leader in technology that enhances convenience and entertainment. But we are even more dedicated to being a leader in consumer safety and trust. The connected car movement has only strengthened this commitment—our involvement in programs like the Together for Safer Roads coalition and our It Can Wait initiative are just a couple examples of how we are raising awareness around road safety.

Looking ahead, we will continue advocating for effective policy frameworks in the private and public sectors that support innovation and security for years to come.

[1] Gartner, Forecast Analysis: Internet of Things — Endpoints, Worldwide, 2016 Update, 10 February 2017.

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