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Back in July 2017, the FCC voted to approve a ‘Report and Order’ containing new rules that impact how RF equipment, manufacturers, vendors, importers, and distributors may conduct their business.

These rules affected IoT equipment suppliers which are subject to virtually all the new rules. The FCC emphasized the new rules by stating they consist of wide range of equipment approval issues of a technical, legal, and practical nature, impacting a diverse set of stakeholders, each of whom will need to closely analyze and consider the potential impact of the rule changes.

FCC Penalizes Non-Compliant Equipment Suppliers

The FCC and Communications Act’s rules strictly prohibit the marketing, testing, and operation of unauthorized RF equipment, so IoT stakeholders need to be aware of the rules at all levels.

The FCC will not hesitate to penalize those who violate the new rules; for example, the FCC issued an order and consent decree imposing a steep fine on a manufacturer/distributor of LED light fixtures that failed to comply with the FCC’s equipment authorization rules before marketing a line of light fixtures. The devices reportedly interfered with radio transmissions which resulted in the FCC doing a formal investigation finding the manufacturer guilty of serious violations.

The manufacturer fixed the interference problem and complied with the FCC’s RF equipment rules, and the FCC agreed to resolve the case. The FCC agreed to terminate the investigation in exchange for a $90,000 payment from the manufacturer to the U.S. Treasury.

More importantly for IoT suppliers, the FCC threatened to prevent RF equipment suppliers who violate rules from ever legally marketing their products in the U.S. by denying them equipment authorizations.

So that means virtually all devices that generate RF energy are subject to FCC rules and it’s more important than ever to make sure you compile with new rules in order to market your products.

The new rules are just the beginning of equipment regulatory changes; some of the other topics still in discussion now are:

  • Responsible parties for refurbished devices
  • Software and firmware security requirements
  • Modular component certification
  • Confidentiality of information contained in RF equipment certification applications

With more and more of cable providers breaking into the IoT space as well, like Comcast with its Xfinity Home, they need to be aware of these changes too so they don’t get penalized while trying to break into home automation, IoT, and home security.

Is this another way for the FCC to monitor the number of new products being pitched to the market and making sure the playing fields are kept even? Maybe, but time will tell.