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Remarks of Assistant Secretary Redl at CES 2018

Remarks of David J. Redl
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
CES 2018
Las Vegas
January 9, 2018

--As Prepared for Delivery--

Thank you. I’m thrilled to be back at CES. This is my first trip here as a member of the Executive Branch, and despite what you might think I’m having just as much fun this time around.

I’m also excited to be able to speak before a discussion that I’m very much looking forward to, between Commissioners Carr, Clyburn, and O’Rielly.

Since the panel will be a preview of 2018, I will also take this opportunity to lay out some of the priorities that I’ll be pursuing over the next year at NTIA. For those of you who know me, you know that spectrum policy is a passion of mine, so it’s no surprise that it will be a major focus this year. The next generation of wireless connectivity is poised to unlock fantastic innovations and life-changing technologies, and America has been leading the way when it comes to developing 5G. We must do everything we can this year and beyond to accelerate America’s 5G leadership.

A second major focus area will be ensuring that our connected technologies are more sustainable, secure and resilient. Cyberattacks and vulnerabilities in our critical infrastructure threaten to undermine the great progress we’ve made and that we will make in the future. NTIA has a great team of experts on cybersecurity policy, and we’re well positioned to bring together all of the key stakeholders that will be needed to begin solving the most difficult cybersecurity challenges.

And the final area I’ll talk about today is ensuring that the Internet remains free and open around the world. The United States must show leadership and strongly oppose any efforts to suppress the free expression of ideas online or impede the flow of data across borders.  

Ensuring America’s 5G Leadership

CES is a great showcase of how access to high-speed connectivity has driven economic growth and innovation in this country and around the world. With 5th generation wireless systems, we’re poised to take another leap. The deployment of 5G will mean significant speed upgrades, and it will also pave the way for the remarkable Internet of Things applications, self-driving cars, and many other transformative technologies that you’re seeing on the floor this year.

NTIA plays a key role in pushing America’s 5G leadership forward. We are actively identifying and studying additional spectrum bands that could be made available for commercial uses. We’re also supporting national and international efforts to harmonize spectrum and set technology standards. And we’re working with industry to help remove obstacles to deploying the network infrastructure that’s needed for 5G to flourish.

With 5G set to drive demand for more access to spectrum, we have been looking at bands up and down the frequency allocation chart, which I’m sure many of you are familiar with. NTIA has been very successful in leveraging existing interagency processes to assess which bands can be opened up – from the millimeter wave range all the way down to the low bands.

Up high in the millimeter wave range, NTIA continues to support the FCC’s Spectrum Frontiers proceeding by collaborating on an approach for sharing between federal and non-federal users in the 37 GHz band. We’re optimistic that if we get this right, it could serve as a model to inform how sharing might be done in other millimeter wave bands, as well.

In the mid-band range, NTIA is working with the FCC, the Department of Defense and the wireless industry to support the introduction of the CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) in the 3.5 GHz band. For example, NTIA, the FCC and DoD are meeting regularly with WinnForum to establish the standards and certification process that will help define the protection of federal radar systems, an essential step to getting CBRS off the ground.

This work revolves around the innovative concept of dynamic protection areas, or “DPAs,” which are designed to replace static exclusion zones and allow more flexible spectrum sharing between federal and non-federal users. The 3.5 GHz model demonstrates how we can move toward more dynamic sharing, even as we continue to protect key government systems that are vital for national security and other public services. And the collaborative work in the 3.5 GHz process points toward a promising future for managing our nation’s spectrum resources.    

In the low-band, the Spectrum Pipeline Act requires NTIA to identify for auction 30 megahertz of federal spectrum below 3 GHz by 2022, and to identify an additional 100 megahertz beyond that. As part of this effort, NTIA, along with OMB and the FCC, has been evaluating proposed “pipeline plans” that have been submitted by federal agencies.  If the plans are approved, funding is made available for the agencies to research ways that might free up spectrum by combining operations or otherwise using spectrum more efficiently and effectively.

Two pipeline plans have been approved and funded for studies that could lead to repurposing federal spectrum for commercial use in the 1300-1350 MHz and 1675-1680 MHz bands. Additional pipeline plans are under review or being prepared. NTIA is actively researching the potential of other incentives for federal agencies to perform their statutory missions while using their spectral resources in the most optimal and efficient ways.

NTIA also plays a key role coordinating federal agencies’ preparations for key international spectrum negotiations and standards-setting activities.  This includes intergovernmental participation in the International Telecommunication Union, which will hold a World Radiocommunication Conference next year in Geneva, Switzerland.

WRC-19 will tee up important agenda items addressing harmonization of spectrum for AWS in the millimeter wave bands, as well as for the operation of unlicensed radio local area networks – think Wi-Fi – in the 5 GHz band. WRC-19 will be vital in facilitating the global ecosystem for 5G services, development and roll-out, and NTIA is working now to ensure that the outcomes support U.S. industry’s 5G development plans.

Of course, wireless networks aren't powered purely by spectrum – in many if not most cases, they require wired backhaul connections, principally fiber. These connections will be even more important with 5G, which will need hundreds of thousands of small cells to be installed across the country.

Even as demand for 5G infrastructure grows, many areas in the United States still don’t have the foundational broadband infrastructure needed to compete in a 21st century economy. We need to do everything we can to encourage infrastructure development.

One way to do this: Congress and the Executive Branch can work with private industry to look at how federal action might address the patchwork of permitting, citing and other regulatory provisions, in order to potentially streamline or eliminate any rules that pose unnecessary barriers to deployment. This would apply to the deployment of backhaul connections as well as the infrastructure where small cells would be installed, such as poles, streetlights, rooftops and other structures.

And it’s important to remember that the federal government is the single largest landowner in the country, and it can boost deployment immensely by actively reducing barriers to deployment on public lands and in government-owned buildings. President Trump issued an Executive Order and Presidential Memo on this topic earlier this week, and we intend to continue making progress in this area.

Strengthening Cybersecurity

Beyond supporting the growth of these networks, we must also work to make them more secure and resilient.

Cybersecurity has been a key priority of this Administration. Last May, the President issued an Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure. The Order sought to address a number of issues, including identifying international cybersecurity priorities, protecting our own systems and public data inside the Federal government,  and supporting the growth and sustainment of the Nation's cybersecurity workforce.

The Order also called for promoting stakeholder action against botnets and other automated, distributed threats. Botnet attacks can have large and damaging effects, and they put the broader network at risk. The risks are only going to increase as connected devices continue to flourish. Notably, this task had a longer timeline because we were directed to identify stakeholder actions, not solve this through government regulation. The process was open and transparent, and I know some of you here participated, and we thank you.

This past week, the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security issued a draft report on actions that can be taken to reduce the threat of botnets. The 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. For each goal, the report suggests supporting actions that can be taken by both government and private sector actors.

To highlight some of the themes: The threat has evolved over the years, and now we have to deal with risks coming from connected devices, not just computers. We know that these automated, distributed attacks are a global problem. Botnets can use compromised devices around the world to attack American targets. We cannot solve this problem alone. And no single sector can fix the problem in isolation – this is an ecosystem-wide challenge.

We also know that there are effective tools available that can help mitigate these threats, but they are not widely used. In order to change this, we need more education and awareness, but we also need to align market incentives to achieve a better balance between security and convenience.

It’s a testament to the wisdom of the Order that we created this report in consultation with several additional agencies, including the FCC and FTC. On behalf of NTIA and the Department of Commerce, I want to thank the FCC and FTC staff for their contributions and insights. The process of creating this report revealed a lot of common understanding about what we need to do, and where we need to go to make this positive vision a reality.

And the response we’ve received from stakeholders so far has shown that we have a solid foundation to build on, across industry, government and civil society. It’s a strong report, and I hope you will take the time to read it and provide us feedback. There’s a request for comments on NTIA’s website—we could use your help, and we’ll incorporate your comments into the report we’ll be delivering to the President in May.

Make no mistake, NTIA will continue to play its vital cybersecurity role during my tenure.

Late last year, stakeholders in one of NTIA’s open multistakeholder processes came to consensus around a series of documents around Internet of Things security and patching. We will continue to engage with the IoT and security communities to promote the principles and ideas within those documents.

This year, NTIA will be working on software component transparency, with a particular eye to toward the third-party components used in IoT devices.  We intend to convene a discussion between software and IoT vendors and the enterprise customer communities who use these products. The exact focus will be decided by participants, but stakeholders may focus on how to track third party component usage, how to use data on software components in modern enterprise defense tools and policies, and how to effectively and securely share information between vendors and customers.

There is much more to come on cybersecurity from this Administration, and the botnet report and our work on IoT is only a small part. But within the Administration and NTIA, there is an urgency to deal with these problems. So if there is an area where we can be useful, we will pursue it.

Protecting Internet Freedom

I’ll close by talking a little about my goals internationally.

Some governments around the world are still too eager to shut down the Internet and curtail freedom online. The most recent example is Iran, which took steps to suppress information and the views of protestors online. It is imperative, now more than ever, that we fight for an Internet that is open, interoperable, and governed globally by all of its stakeholders through multistakeholder processes.

Protecting Internet freedom and the free flow of goods and services will be one of the primary international items on my agenda. To do this, we’ll have to take steps such as defeating proposals that seek intergovernmental regulation of the Internet at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference later this year. And we’ll need to strengthen the Internet Governance Forum and other venues for multistakeholder Internet governance.

The ITU needs to be modernized and become a 21st century institution if we’re going to achieve our spectrum and satellite goals. A good first step would be for an American, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, to win election as Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. Doreen is a former NTIA official and an impressive candidate, and she has my full support. I hope she has yours as well.

I’ll also focus on being a strong advocate for U.S. interests within ICANN. We need to ensure transparency and accountability in ICANN's work. And in light of the implementation of the European General Data Privacy Regulation, or GDPR, we need to preserve lawful access to WHOIS data, which is a vital tool for the public.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be seeking out the views of stakeholders to understand how else NTIA can best serve American interests in these global Internet fora.

So I think I’ve laid out an ambitious agenda for NTIA for the next year, particularly when it comes to America’s 5G leadership, cybersecurity and preserving a free and open Internet. As we take on these issues, NTIA will work hand-in-hand with industry so that we can unlock the next generation of innovation and growth. I’m looking forward to a busy and productive 2018. I’m really excited to be part of the NTIA team. But for now I will turn it over to our distinguished panel. Thanks everybody.