Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., the New Jersey Democrat and recently-named chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, used his pulpit at an appliance industry gathering in his home town of Long Branch, N.J., yesterday to push for “a free and open Internet” and tighter security around connected devices.
Addressing majap vendors at an [email protected] policy discussion organized by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), Pallone said he believes there is bi-partisan support in Congress for his party’s “Save the Internet Act,” which seeks to restore the net neutrality rules that were scrapped by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump administration appointee.
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The bill, Pallone said, means a return to “no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization” of the Internet.
The 16-term congressman also took aim at the vulnerabilities of connected appliances and other smart devices, calling for comprehensive privacy legislation that placed the onus on manufacturers. “We need strong security and privacy protections,” he said, including limits on the amount of personal data that can be collected and how it’s used. “The burden is too much on consumers and not on companies.”
Pallone said remedies can include such “basic steps” as ending the hardwiring of unalterable passwords into IoT hardware.
During a panel discussion with brand executives, Yoshiaki Uchiyama, Sharp’s director of product marketing, noted that nine out of 10 consumers don’t read the fine print of privacy agreements, and that appliance owners pay even less attention to security concerns, since the products aren’t traditional communications devices.
The goal at Sharp, he said, is to “figure out how to make the routine shorter and easier to prevent hacking.”
Pallone also anticipated the introduction this spring of a $2 trillion infrastructure bill, dubbed the “Lift America Act,” that, besides building out transportation systems, would also bolster the energy grid and bring broadband access to all parts of the country.
The new chairman also hopes to move forward with bi-partisan environmental initiatives — addressing energy efficiency, enforcement, and reductions in greenhouse gases and fossil fuels — that he said were “hamstrung” by the Trump administration.
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For its part AHAM said it welcomes the move, which would make compliance easier for manufacturers by replacing multiple state mandates with a single federal framework.
The regional event, which followed an AHAM manufacturing meeting in Tennessee last fall, underscored the appliance industry’s presence in the Garden State, where 13 member manufacturers including De’Longhi, LG, Midea, Samsung and Sharp maintain headquarters, employ 6,100 workers and contribute an estimated $6 billion in capital investment, the trade group’s president/CEO Joe McGuire said.