The World (Wide Web) Turns: What the End of Net Neutrality Means for the IoT and Insurance

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15 December 2017
Donald Light

On Thursday the FCC in effect repealed its Net Neutrality regulations. Depending on who you talk to (and oddly enough, depending often on their bluish or reddish tinge) this was either a terrible thing for technology and the nation as a whole – or exactly the opposite.

Part of the commentariat is commenting on implications for the IoT. Essentially those in the “terrible thing” camp hold that internet providers (such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast) may use their pricing power and their ability to stream certain content more slowly. Doing so could disadvantage data flows from IoT devices--and consequently the people (such as policyholders) and organizations (such as insurers) who want to create insights and actions from that data). Images are conjured of networked smoke sensors or heart rate monitors failing to provide timely notice of fires, atrial fibrillation, etc.

People in the opposite camp tend to say the opposite.

Here is what I think.

Let’s divide IoT devices (and the organizations that create insights from the IoT data) into two groups.

  • ·The first group consists of devices designed to guard the safety and well-being of people and property
  • ·The second group has all other devices (e.g. HVAC systems in buildings)

Internet providers are not so stupid (or so nonchalant about lawsuits and really bad publicity) that they would actually slow track data from the first group. Internet providers may well price discriminate against some or many of the IoT devices in the second group, because, well, they can. The value of HVAC data to a building owner or its insurer, may or may not be sufficient to pay for fast-tracking that data. And as a guy who thinks most market-based solutions are better than most non-market-based solutions, that’s ok with me. And in IMHO, it’s ok for technology and society.


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