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Remarks of Assistant Secretary Redl at the Phoenix Center 2017 Annual U.S. Telecoms Symposium

Remarks of David J. Redl
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Phoenix Center Annual U.S. Telecoms Symposium
Washington, D.C.
December 5, 2017

--As Prepared for Delivery--

Thank you. I am grateful and honored to accept the Jerry B. Duvall Public Service Award.

Mr. Duvall has an admirable record of public service, and his commitment to supporting competition and free markets has no doubt left an indelible mark on the FCC and the communications industry. And Jerry’s legacy extends beyond policy, certainly, when you consider the role he played mentoring Larry and George and many others.

I also want to thank Larry and the Phoenix Center for their support and the vital work they do analyzing the legal and economic implications of telecom policy. Phoenix Center scholars are well known for their ability to bring honest analysis to debates that can get overheated with rhetoric and exaggerations.

So this is a special award. And it just so happens that I have a new office with lots of empty shelf space, so I will be able to display it with the prominence it deserves.

These will be my first remarks as an Assistant Secretary of Commerce and the Administrator of NTIA, the agency that is principally responsible for advising the president on telecommunications. I’m excited and honored to continue my public service career in this Administration, and work in the Commerce Department under the leadership of Secretary Ross.

I’m about midway through my second week at NTIA. I’ve spent the bulk of my time so far meeting with the experienced and talented professionals there. I’ve found that they share my determination and anxiousness to get to work solving the difficult problems we face in communications and technology. And I’m grateful I will be able to benefit from their experience throughout my tenure in this important job.

This is an exciting time to lead NTIA, which plays a vital role in many important areas of telecommunications, including managing federal spectrum use, promoting investments in broadband infrastructure, and developing policies that improve cybersecurity, Internet governance and more.

The Internet as we know it now is more than 30 years old. It has transformed how Americans work, play and interact with one another. It has created entire industries and millions of new jobs. There is much to celebrate when it comes to the Internet, but there are real problems we need to tackle. Many Americans, especially in rural areas, still can’t access broadband at the speeds needed to meaningfully participate in the modern economy.

Discussions are ongoing in Congress and in the Administration about how to facilitate the roll out of broadband in unserved areas of the country. I look forward to joining these discussions as a member of the Administration. Because I am no stranger to these issues, I know there is much we can do to encourage infrastructure deployment. This Administration is committed to ensuring America remains the global leader in innovation, and ensuring we have the tools across the U.S. economy will be key to our effort. Advanced manufacturing is one key focus area, and we’ve already moved to streamline permitting and eliminate unnecessary regulations in this space.

One of the most effective steps we can take is to address our nation’s broadband future is to maximize use of the country’s spectrum resources. Wireless technology already plays a major role in providing broadband access, and that role is likely to increase with 5G deployment. The speed and reliability of 5G also should help unlock the promise of smart cities, connected cars, and the broader Internet of Things, an area where NTIA has long been a thought leader.

All of these developments point to a promising future. But they also mean continued demand for spectrum. We have made great progress over the last half decade making more spectrum available for flexible commercial use -- more than 340 megahertz of low and mid-band spectrum and about 13 gigahertz of spectrum in the millimeter wave range. But there will be even greater challenges ahead. Over the next few years, one of the biggest challenges we’ll face will be finding the spectrum we need to support competitive, ubiquitous 5G in America, while at the same time ensuring federal agencies can perform their important missions.

At NTIA, that will mean, among other things, improving government spectrum efficiency, providing incentives for government agencies to make better use of spectrum, and promoting spectrum-related research and development.

Finding additional spectrum to fuel the growth of wireless isn’t a particularly pretty or elegant process. It involves a lot hard work thinking through the second-, third- and even fourth-level effects of transitioning incumbents. Much of the progress we’ve made was the result of relationships and trust developed between industry and government. NTIA’s spectrum team has spent years establishing those relationships and I am lucky to have such an amazing team working to ensure that the spectrum-evaluation processes continues to meet our country’s needs.

Despite our successes, or perhaps because of them, our work will continue to get more difficult as demand for spectrum shows no signs of abating.  In addition to NTIA’s existing assets, I bring some new tools to the agency.  I have spent the last 12 years of my life working to improve U.S. spectrum policy, including the last seven years on Capitol Hill, working with Chairman Upton and Chairman Walden to create spectrum-auction legislation and improve the spectrum relocation process. Chairmen Upton and Walden placed a priority on learning from what worked and what didn’t, on being creative and unafraid to take on complicated problems, and on continuing to move the ball forward to increase efficiency and meet America’s wireless broadband needs. I am proud of the work done to date, and this is the same approach I will take at NTIA.

The Internet was made in America, and our ideas, our companies, and our policies have helped cement our leadership and turn the Internet into one of the greatest engines for communications and commerce that the world has ever known.

But if we are going to continue to lead for the next 30 years, government is going to have to work hand-in-hand with willing private sector partners. We’re ready to work closely with industry to find ways to solve the problems that will unlock the next generation of innovation and growth.

As head of NTIA, I will look to create as many avenues for meaningful engagement with the private sector as I can. The communications and information sectors are the backbone of the economy, and they are too important not to get it right. The United States must continue to lead as new technologies emerge and we must harness this growth for American businesses and American workers.

During the profound changes of the past three decades, America has been the center of innovation. You can trace that directly to the government putting its trust in the private sector and establishing the light-touch regulatory framework that has governed the Internet since its founding.

But sometimes it’s not enough for government to have a light touch. Sometimes, it needs to be proactive in ensuring that the private sector has what it needs to create the next-generation of technology and tools that will improve Americans’ lives. It will take hard work and a lot of listening to maintain America’s leadership in the wireless world; that will be my focus as NTIA’s Administrator.

Thank you once again to the Phoenix Center for this award and for inviting me to speak today.