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Celebrating 2019 Successes in 5G, Broadband, Security and Public Safety

December 30, 2019 by Doug Kinkoph, performing the non-exclusive functions and duties of the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

As we close the books on 2019, NTIA took stock of strides made in the past year on key Administration priorities. Topping the list is our work to make spectrum available for 5G, including completing engineering work to put critical mid-band spectrum to use in the 3.5 GHz band. NTIA also is proud of our work with government partners to enhance broadband connectivity, improve technology equipment in 911 call centers, and secure networks from cyber threats.

Ensuring U.S. Leadership in 5G, Broadband Opportunities

NTIA took a number of steps to support the Administration’s goal to advance 5G leadership and expand broadband connectivity around the country. We worked with the Department of Commerce to take stock of our spectrum assets and plan for future needs. Nearly 5.9 gigahertz of spectrum has been made available for licensed wireless services, including 5G, according to our report on efforts to re-purpose spectrum for commercial use.

We were excited to see the long-awaited initial commercial deployments of broadband wireless services in the 3.5 GHz band, after years of groundbreaking engineering work and testing by NTIA’s Office of Spectrum Management and the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences.

At the World Radiocommunication Conference this fall, nearly a dozen NTIA employees were part of a U.S. delegation that secured important agreements on 5G allocations in the “millimeter wave” spectrum. The delegation’s success at this conference will directly benefit U.S. industries as they seek to maintain and advance American technology leadership across the globe.

Under the American Broadband Initiative, NTIA played a leadership role working with the White House and 20 federal agencies on strategies to improve broadband for all Americans. We looked across government to identify sources of broadband funding, and created a comprehensive guide featured on NTIA’s BroadbandUSA website.

In October, NTIA debuted a pilot version of its new National Broadband Availability Map, in partnership with an initial eight states with more states to be added this year. The map will help federal, state and local policymakers more accurately understand where new infrastructure is needed.

Enhancing Security and Public Safety

With advances in connectivity come security challenges, as emerging technologies layer thousands of new devices and applications onto our networks. A major priority this year has been charting a path toward greater security while preserving continued prosperity.

NTIA supported U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on the development of proposed rules to prohibit transactions that present undue risk to the information and communications technology supply chain. Public comments on the department’s procedures for identifying and addressing ICTS transactions that pose an undue risk to the digital economy are due Jan. 10, 2020.

Internationally, NTIA continued its work to preserve lawful access to WHOIS data, a vital tool that helps maintain the stability and security of the Internet, as we adapt to implementation of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. We were also instrumental in encouraging the OECD’s 42 member countries to approve a new international agreement for building trustworthy artificial intelligence that will help set the course for AI applications that can improve quality of life around the world.

NTIA also continues to play an important public safety role. In August, NTIA announced more than $109 million in grants to 34 states and two tribal nations as part of the 911 Grant Program, which will help 911 call centers upgrade to Next Generation 911 capabilities.

NTIA continued our oversight of FirstNet, which now has more than 10,000 public safety organizations as subscribers. The FirstNet Authority in August released a five-year roadmap, which sets the course for the growth, evolution, and advancement of the public safety broadband network.

At the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences, NTIA engineers developed innovative algorithms that can optimize the intelligibility of voice communications and improve the quality of intelligent cameras and networks.

Convening and Creating Partnerships

NTIA plays a major role as a convening organization that can bring diverse stakeholders together to solve complex challenges facing our increasingly connected world.

One key effort that yielded success – and that we’ll be further developing in 2020 – is our multistakeholder process on software transparency to create consensus guidance around the use of a Software Bill of Materials. The “SBOM,” which identifies the list of ingredients that make up software components, would provide a way to fix vulnerabilities after products are released to the market.

In November, NTIA launched a new Minority Broadband Initiative focused on solving broadband deployment challenges in vulnerable communities, working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Our BroadbandUSA program helped more than 1,000 communities with broadband planning through workshops, webinars, and technical assistance activities. We also grew our State Broadband Leaders Network from 38 state participants to 48 states and 3 territories.

Our Office of International Affairs coordinated bi-lateral meetings with more than 35 countries, where we advocated U.S. positions on technology policy, and promoted that importance of the information technology and communications sector.

We look forward to making further progress in advancing our country’s technology leadership as we plan our 2020 agenda.

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