Net Neutrality and the Smart Home
At this point, you’ve probably seen article after article about Net Neutrality. I’m not going to spend a ton of time talking about what the issue is. You can find that all over the internet. What I do want to spend time doing is talking about the impacts to Smart Homes. While it may not seem like there are any at first, you’ll be surprised to find out that you could definitely be impacted, even if all of your devices are local only.
Let’s start with the most obvious: WiFi devices. Right now, the devices you use have just as much priority as any other internet traffic. When you open up your phone and load up your Belkin app, it’s connecting to Belkin’s servers to get the status of all your devices. When you press a button to turn a light on, a message is sent from your phone, to Belkin, and back to the device in your house. The device then turns on and reports status back to Belkin, which then updates the status on your phone. All of this is routed through the internet.
Let’s look at the Samsung SmartThings setup. When you open the SmartThings app on your phone, it reaches out to Samsung’s servers, over the internet, to get the status of all your devices. The server responds back with the latest status and updates your phone app. Similarly to the Belkin app, when you press a button to turn a light on, a message is sent from your phone, to Samsung, and back to the hub in your house. The hub then turns the light on and updates Samsung’s servers, which then update your phone. All of this is routed through the internet.
So what happens if Net Neutrality is repealed? How does this impact you?
Let’s use Verizon as an example, since Ajit Pai, the current chairman of the FCC and the person who is leading the Net Neutrality repeal effort, came from Verizon. Verizon currently offers home internet service to many homes across the United Status. Today, with the current rules in place, Verizon cannot prioritize Samsung’s traffic over any other traffic. Devices like Garadget, which were started by an engineer in his garage, have just as much priority as devices like the Belkin WeMo. If the Net Neutrality rules are revoked, that will no longer be the case. Verizon can then determine which devices have higher priority than others. A company like Samsung, which has billions of dollars, can pay to have its smart home traffic have higher priority over others. Your Garadget will all of a sudden require an additional fee for you to use, all because the Garadget founder can’t put up as much money as Samsung.
Consider the alternative: what if Verizon decides to get into the Smart Home business? Once they start offering their own hub and smart devices, they can prioritize their traffic over others. Do you want to continue to use SmartThings to manage your home? You sure can, for an additional $10-$15 a month.
I keep saying “Prioritize their traffic”. What does this mean? What are the real world impacts to you? What it basically comes down to is speed, or even availability. The traffic to Samsung can be severely slowed down, to the point where it’s unusable. Right now, it takes less than a second for me to turn a light on or off from my phone. With no Net Neutrality rules in place, Verizon can make it so it takes as long as they want it to take, while still keeping traffic to their smart home devices taking less than a second. Verizon can also simply deny access to Samsung’s servers, unless you pay a premium.
Now that’s for devices that use the internet. What if you don’t have any of those devices? What if all your devices are on Z-Wave, and your hub is local only and doesn’t touch the internet. Well, my question to you is, do you ever research how to fix any of your devices over the internet? What if those websites don’t pony up any money to be part of the premium packages that Verizon offers? All of that data that you might want to research could quickly not become available.
Let’s talk about my website, DadInASmartHome.com. I do this as a hobby. It costs me money for hosting, each month. As you can see, I run no ads. I have referral links every once in a while, but that’s rarely enough to compensate for hosting. I just do this for fun. What happens if Net Neutrality rules are removed? If I publish an article that isn’t completely positive, companies like Verizon can simply not prioritize any traffic to my site. They can prioritize traffic to sites that stay positive. Objective articles could simply go away, all without you even knowing.
Is all of this fear mongering? Potentially. If you want to see what it’s like without Net Neutrality rules, though, I encourage you to look at the country of Portugal. Here’s an internet offering from that country:
That’s not theoretical or a possibility, that’s happening right now.
This is why Net Neutrality is so important.
What Can You Do?
Head to https://www.battleforthenet.com/. They’ve made it really simple for you to get your message across to your representative. Make your voice heard before it is too late.