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Remarks of Acting Assistant Secretary Rinaldo at Mobile World Congress Americas

Remarks of Diane Rinaldo
Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
Mobile World Congress Americas
Los Angeles, California
October 23, 2019

-- As Prepared for Delivery --

Thank you. I’m thrilled to be in Los Angeles for this exciting conference – and discussions about our technology future.

At last year’s Mobile World Congress, representatives from NTIA and the Department of Commerce made a commitment on behalf of the Administration: That America would win the race to 5G.

This has been one of the most urgent and primary areas of focus for the Administration and the Department. We have pursued policies that enable government and industry to work together to deliver on the promise of secure, ubiquitous 5G networks.  

We’ve worked to craft a long-term, comprehensive approach to spectrum policy, and we’ve allocated more spectrum for licensed commercial wireless service than any other country.

We’ve removed obstacles to infrastructure buildouts by streamlining federal permitting, leveraging federal assets and coordinating federal funding.

And we’ve collaborated with industry to put security first, and to assess and identify gaps and opportunities in the development of global standards.

Looking at the landscape a year later, it’s clear: We are winning the race.

There are now 5G networks in 35 American cities, covering nearly half of the states. By the end of the year, almost 100 networks will be up and running across the country.

Smartphone developers are delivering the first 5G-capable phones to consumer markets, and we’re already seeing speeds that are 10 to 40 times as fast as typical 4G LTE speeds.

Our silicon industry is leading on chip designs, and multinational manufacturers are looking to produce 5G equipment here in the United States. Just last month, Ericsson announced the location of the company’s first 5G “smart factory” in the United States, building 5G equipment while using 5G equipment and applications to run the factory.   

These decisions build the foundation for continued American technological leadership.

This is what winning looks like.

What I’m most encouraged by, however, is that we’ve once again proved the strength of the American approach. Free market principles are leading the way. We have worked to leverage the unmatched power of the free enterprise system.

We have put building security into the networks from day one. America’s wireless industry has demonstrated that it values its customers’ privacy and data security.

We have also maintained our balanced approach to spectrum use. We have developed a comprehensive, whole-of-government view, so that the American people can get the maximum value from this vital resource.

Spectrum is one of our most valuable strategic assets for our economy and national security. The Department of Commerce follows three basic principles in our approach to spectrum

The first is balance. Spectrum resources are the backbone of so many government functions. Spectrum allows our armed forces, law enforcement agencies, scientists, and engineers to fulfill their missions and effectively serve the public. We must protect critical spectrum resources so that we can maintain our world-leading military strength and scientific understanding.

We cannot pursue only some of our national economic and national security priorities. We must achieve all of them. In order to do that, NTIA, our federal partners and industry must continue to work together.

The U.S. has allocated nearly 5.9 gigahertz of spectrum for licensed services. And we’re not done. An additional 7 gigahertz of spectrum is under study for licensed use.

Across low-, mid-, and high-bands, there is also more than 14 gigahertz of unlicensed spectrum available. These unlicensed allocations, particularly in the high-band range, will likely lead to a wide range of new applications, including the use of virtual reality, automation, and artificial intelligence.

Our second principle is a long-term outlook. We need a framework that will address spectrum demand now and the foreseeable future.

This was the thrust of the memorandum on spectrum management policies issued by President Trump last year, which kicked off a range of activities by the NTIA, the White House, and other agencies.

In response, NTIA has started a long-term effort to understand how federal agencies currently use and manage federal spectrum assets, and to determine what spectrum requirements the federal agencies will have in future years.

It’s important to take a close look at federal spectrum usage. We need accurate data to establish how spectrum underpins federal operations. The better data we have, the better we can determine how to balance spectrum access for all critical uses — including ongoing federal operations.

NTIA also worked with the Secretary’s office, the federal agencies, and the White House to craft a National Spectrum Strategy. This document provides an outline of the elements that will drive our national spectrum policy firmly into the future. We look forward to sharing it with you soon.

Finally, we have to be innovative. That means moving beyond the traditional models of spectrum use, and embracing ideas like spectrum sharing and leasing.

For an example of how this works, we can now look to the 3.5 GHz band. Last month, I had the pleasure of helping kick off initial commercial deployments in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).

CBRS is a giant leap forward in spectrum sharing technology. This is the first time that spectrum is being shared dynamically between government and commercial users, with real-time decisions being made about interference protection and who can use the band, and where.

This is an exciting, critical achievement in putting more mid-band spectrum to use. It is a culmination of nearly a decade of hard, collaborative work with our partners at the FCC, the Department of Defense, and the private sector.

CBRS is also a launching pad for innovative commercial uses. We are eager to see how this spectrum is put into action, including the announced future support of 5G.

So many of our national goals depend on spectrum. The only way we’ll be able to achieve all of them is by working together, and we now have an excellent model of cooperation and coordination to build upon. 

We are taking that cooperative spirit with us as our team works with the Department of Defense to evaluate whether frequencies neighboring the CBRS band in the 3100-3550 MHz range could support the introduction of commercial wireless services without harming current federal operations.

Along with other FCC efforts, these developments mean the U.S. will be well positioned to put key mid-band spectrum into the market to support U.S. leadership in 5G and the technology industries of the future.

As encouraging as our progress has been, we know that just being first isn’t enough. As our reliance on connectivity increases, we will become more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Securing our networks must be a major priority, and as a government, we need your help. We have to work together on systems that incorporate prevention, protection, and resiliency from the start, not as an afterthought.

One of the top priorities for the Administration is securing the IT and communications supply chain. Our telecommunications infrastructure is critical to nearly every aspect of America’s economy and national security. The supply chain that powers that infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to certain foreign-sourced products and services.

At the most basic level, we simply want to avoid clear risks. Technology that comes from suspect origins or practices should not be put into critical systems. At NTIA, we are also working to increase transparency across the digital ecosystem to help organizations make better decisions, and reduce cybersecurity risks and incidents.

NTIA is helping to address these challenges by supporting the Secretary of Commerce in implementing the President’s Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain.

Beyond the supply chain, NTIA is also involved in an ongoing effort to mitigate the damaging effects of botnets.

Botnet attacks can have extremely damaging effects, and they are now using the growing number of Internet of Things devices as fuel for bigger and bigger attacks. We have seen attacks that have topped a terabit per second. Dealing with an attack of this magnitude can take time, which is a major concern when mission-critical services are involved.

In response to an executive order, NTIA worked with NIST and the Department of Homeland Security to deliver a report on botnets last year. The Botnet Report outlines a positive vision for the future, cemented by six principal themes and five complementary goals that would improve the resilience of the Internet ecosystem. It calls for action by a wide array of stakeholders, because remediating botnet threats is an ecosystem-wide challenge.

We are tracking progress through a document known as the Botnet Road Map. More than half of the identified tasks are already in progress or completed.

At the end of this year, the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security plan to provide a status update to the President that reviews progress, tracks the impact of the road map and sets further priorities.

Lastly, I want to give a brief update on the multistakeholder processes on cybersecurity that NTIA convenes.

We’ve had three really successful processes in recent years, seeking to make progress on some really tough issues by bringing together a diverse array of stakeholders. First, we sought address the challenges around the process for disclosing vulnerabilities. We invited security researchers into a discussion with software vendors and their customers, to focus on how collaboration could help everyone.

We also helped lead government efforts to address the risks from an insecure Internet of Things. Our focus was simple – let’s make sure that insecure devices can be fixed. So we fostered technical and policy discussions around “patchability.”

Our current effort addresses the risks in our software supply chain by promoting transparency around third party components. We’re are helping industry understand and use what’s called a “software bill of materials,” also known as “SBOM,” which lists the components that make up software. It’s a concept somewhat similar to food ingredient lists being included for every product on grocery store shelves.

The stakeholders in this process are nearly finished with a series of documents that will serve as a foundation for future work on software transparency. We’re really excited about the promise of a more transparent software supply chain.

All of our security work recognizes two simple facts.

First, we are entering a new era of connected devices, smart services, and AI.

Second, because of this, we must increase our collective vigilance. With great invention and progress comes an equally great demand for smart policy solutions to address the growing number of complex, unintended consequences that these advances introduce. 

We must be smarter, more actionable, more accountable and more outcome focused. In a world where everything is connected, from our toasters to our global financial system, there is much at stake. We must usher in an era of governance and accountability that meets the demands of the current environment and anticipates the future one.

America’s wireless industry has invested billions of dollars to deploy new, powerful networks around the nation. The Administration has arrayed government departments and agencies to spur further investments, remove hurdles, and balance the needs of the nation’s spectrum users. Most importantly, a country full of entrepreneurs stand ready to use these advances in connectivity to create life-changing products and services.

We are on the right path. Let’s continue to work together and make our shared vision for the future a reality.

Thank you.