The House Energy and Commerce Committee today approved by voice vote a measure that would direct Federal agencies to study Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and whether to regulate them, along with two others aimed at spurring further rollout of broadband services in mostly rural areas of the United States.

The first bill approved – the SMART IoT Act (HR 6032) – would direct the Commerce Department (DoC) to study and report to Congress within one year on the U.S. Internet-connected device industry, including on voluntary and mandatory standards that are being developed around the world for the IoT sector, which Federal agencies have jurisdiction over the sector, and any regulations or standards those agencies have put in place that impact the IoT sector.

Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, said the bill is “an important first step for laying the ground work for many policy considerations” regarding IoT technologies, and that it was important “we do not create unnecessary regulatory burdens that stifle innovation,” reiterating sentiments from a May hearing on a draft of the legislation.

The second bill – the ACCESS BROADBAND Act (HR 3994) – would direct DoC to establish an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which would undertake a range of activities to promote further broadband service rollout.  Those include connecting with communities that need access to service, holding regional workshops to share best practices for promoting broadband access and adoption, developing broadband training programs for various demographic communities, and tracking construction and use of any broadband infrastructure built using Federal government support.

The new DoC office would report annually to Congress on the number of U.S. residents receiving broadband service as a result of Federal programs, including the Universal Service Fund, and on the estimated economic impact of broadband deployment efforts on local economies.   The new office would also consult with Federal agencies offering broadband support programs “in order to streamline the application process and create one application that may be submitted to apply for all Federal broadband support programs.”

“Currently the Federal government does a poor job of tracking broadband availability…and our bill would start doing that,” said Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., at today’s committee business meeting.

The third bill – the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act (HR 4881) – would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create the Task Force for Meeting Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States.   The task force would identify and measure current gaps in broadband service coverage of cropland and ranchland, create a guide of Federal programs and resources working to expand service access on unserved cropland and ranchland, and develop recommendations to “promote the rapid, expanded deployment of fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service” on those unserved lands.

Each of the bills will be reported to the full House for consideration.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.