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Remarks by NTIA Chief of Staff Thomas Power at NCTA's IPv6 Forum

- As Prepared for Delivery -
National Cable Television Association's 2011 Cable Show
Chicago, IL
June 13, 2011

Thank you to NCTA for inviting me to speak here today.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending many Cable Shows over the years and I am especially pleased to attend the inaugural show for your new President and CEO, Michael Powell. I had the great fortune to get to know Michael when he served as a Federal Communications Commissioner back when I worked for Chairman Kennard and he is a first-rate guy. He is smart and knowledgeable and extremely curious but most importantly, just a really good guy.

Washington is full of  . . .  titles – there are senators and congressmen and agency heads all over the place, and a certain hierarchy pervades the way business gets done. What is great about Michael Powell is that he is focused on the ‘getting-it-done’ part and not the hierarchy.  At the FCC, it was not uncommon to see Michael stopping some staffer in the hallway or the cafeteria to ask about whatever it was he or she was working on – not to cross-examine the staffer, but because Michael was always in learning mode – and always quick to remind staffers how important their work was to the mission of the agency.  He is a great leader and I congratulate him and NCTA on their new relationship together.

And congratulations to NCTA on making IPv6 such a point of emphasis in this year’s show.  There is a lot of work yet to be done and it is very gratifying that NCTA has taken a leadership position in educating stakeholders about the importance of what might otherwise be viewed as a geeky technical issue.

There is at least one fun aspect of IPv6 – you get to talk about a really big number: 340 trillion trillion trillion.  That’s the number of IP addresses that are available through IPv6. That compares to the paltry 4 billion or so that can be used with IPv4. Of course, when Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn developed the TCP/Internet Protocol, they figured 4 billion addresses would be enough.

What nobody could have predicted was how fast and how big the Internet would grow in terms of new users, or that so many of us would have multiple devices, each in need of its own address. Plus, we know now that assigning IP addresses to non-user devices and applications can generate great innovation and efficiencies across industries and society. 

As a result, Cisco now predicts there will be 15 billion devices in need of an IP address by the year 2015. So 340 trillion trillion trillion will do. 

Before drilling down more on IPv6, I wanted to put my comments in context by telling you a bit more about my agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA. NTIA is a part of the Department of Commerce and our main role is to develop and advocate telecom and information policies on behalf of the administration. 

We are different from the Federal Communications Commission in a number of ways, with a big distinction being that NTIA is a part of the executive branch, while the FCC is an independent agency. So take some subject matter area, like universal service. There is broad consensus that the universal service system needs to be reformed, in no small part to ensure that broadband is available to all Americans. It is the FCC that is charged with designing, or re-designing, the universal service system, in accordance with the laws passed by Congress.  For its part, NTIA consults with Federal agencies and develops recommendations that we propose to the FCC, but in the end it is the FCC that makes the rules, subject to the statutory framework outlined by Congress. 

Another area of NTIA’s focus is spectrum. Just as the FCC is charged with regulating commercial users of the airwaves, NTIA manages all of the spectrum used by federal agencies – the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, just to name a few. So there is a bright line between NTIA and the FCC when it comes to spectrum, but there is also close coordination. In fact, when it comes to spectrum, most of the so-called beachfront property is shared by federal and commercial users.  

And, as in the case of universal service, spectrum plays a pivotal role in expanding the availability of broadband across the country. We are facing a spectrum squeeze. Last year President Obama directed NTIA to work with the FCC to identify 500 MHz of spectrum that could be reallocated from existing uses to commercial mobile broadband use. Some of that 500 MHz will come from Federal users, some from non-Federal users.  This really is a topic for another speech, but spectrum is getting a lot of attention in Washington.  Bi-partisan legislation is working its way through Congress, as we at NTIA continue to work to identify spectrum bands that can be re-allocated to commercial use, while making sure that federal agencies have the tools and resources they need to execute their mission-critical responsibilities.

And just one more word about spectrum – perhaps the most important output is the development of a nationwide interoperable wireless public safety network for our first responders and other public agencies that we rely on in times of crisis.  We are approaching the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and we have made scant progress in an area that is a shared priority of all Americans. We look forward to continue working with Congress and all the affected stakeholders to make the public safety network a reality.

In addition to promoting the deployment of broadband, at NTIA we have made it a priority to develop policies to ensure that we continue to have an Internet environment that encourages innovation and creativity and fosters trust with its users.  As my boss, Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling has said, we are guided by two dominant principles as we approach these challenging issues. 

First is preserving the trust of all actors on the Internet.  For example, if users do not trust that their personal information is safe on the Internet, they will be reluctant to adopt new services or fully engage in Internet commerce.  If content providers do not trust that their content will be protected in a balanced way, they will stop putting it online.  The second principle involves utilizing a multi-stakeholder model for dealing with these issues. Multi-stakeholder organizations have played a major role in the design and operation of the Internet and are directly responsible for its success.  NTIA believes that extending this model is important for ensuring the continued growth and innovation of the Internet.

NTIA is putting these principles into practice with our work as the convener of the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force where, working with colleagues across the Department, we are tackling issues like consumer data privacy, cybersecurity, and online copyright. 

In the case of privacy of online commercial data, last December, after convening a workshop and soliciting comments, we released a green paper recommending the establishment of stronger privacy protections.  Our recommendations carve out an important role for multi-stakeholder processes. We propose that baseline privacy protections be adopted in legislation but that we then convene stakeholders – particularly industry players – to develop enforceable codes of conduct to implement the baseline protections.  This multi-stakeholder process allows us the speed to respond quickly to new issues of consumer privacy and the flexibility to have new protections crafted in the most efficient manner.

This multi-stakeholder approach informs a lot of what we do at NTIA and it is especially relevant in the case of IPv6.  As I said earlier, it is gratifying to see NCTA take a leadership role in this area. Likewise, we saw a convergence of interests during last week’s World IPv6 Day when hundreds of commercial and government participants took IPv6 out for a test drive.  I will have a couple more comments about what happened on World IPv6 Day, but first, let me say that the most important aspect of this day is the prominence that it gave to the issue.  World IPv6 Day showed that the technology is there and that the migration can and will be successful, but we have a long way to go and it is critical that we continue to hold public events and demonstrations and educate stakeholders – in particular the enterprise user – about the importance of the migration.

NTIA is helping do its part.  Last September we held our own IPv6 workshop to raise the visibility of this issue and to facilitate a productive dialogue among attendees.  One of the organizations that we worked closely with was the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and I’m glad you heard John Curran, ARIN’s President and CEO, speak this morning. 

That forum lead to the establishment of deadlines for all Federal agencies as laid out by the Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra.  September 30, 2012, is the deadline for all public and external facing servers to be using IPv6 dual stack technology – IPv4 and IPv6. Vivek is working with Federal Government CIOs and their transition managers and agency technical experts through the leadership of the Federal IPv6 Task Force to transition our Federal networks and meet these deadlines. And, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a technical standards profile and testing infrastructure to help facilitate and accelerate wide-scale adoption of IPv6 in the U.S. Government.

The Federal Government’s IPv6 transition can be a tipping-point for change.  We need to upgrade our Federal systems and architectures.  By working through technical “snags” we are trying to find out what works and what is not working – like many of you are doing.  And, as a large procurer of services and equipment, we can help to increase demand for IPv6 compatible and interoperable equipment and help to further identify network interface challenges that both government and industry will benefit by addressing.

In that regard, the NTIA website now hosts an IPv6 readiness tool, developed under the direction of the Federal CTO, Aneesh Chopra.  It’s a first stab at a comprehensive checklist for businesses preparing to deploy IPv6.  We would like your feed-back on the v6IPv6 readiness tool.  This can help us with a version 2.0.  

We plan to reconvene stakeholders for a workshop this fall to build on ISOC’s World IPv6 day and industry efforts, share lessons learned, improve other corporate planning tools, and highlight the successful practices of some of the best actors in industry and the Federal government. So watch for more on that.

We want to see more results, more adoption, and more efforts like this summit. We believe government can work in partnership with industry and other stakeholders to ensure that the technology that underpins the Internet continues to support innovation and economic growth

As for the results of World IPv6 Day, I think they were quite positive – nothing blew up.  As one example, Facebook reported a million IPv6 users and no increase in the usual number of help desk calls.  So we saw a multifold increase in IPv6 traffic with no significant snafus.  Sort of like Y2K – a day that I know is very special to Michael Powell, who spent New Year’s Eve 2000 hunkered down in the FCC’s Y2K bunker.

Overall IPv6 Day was a success.  It proved that content can be displayed and carried via IPv6.  While scaling is a challenge, we seem to have the tools and knowledge at our disposal. But we still have much work to do.

The real challenge, I believe, is within the enterprise user community.  Things like enterprise firewalls, load-balancers, and routers and other network components must all support IPv6.  And, for the typical enterprise CTO or CIO, this may be a tough sell to the CEO and the CFO.  Budgets are already stretched thin and there are lots of IT challenges competing for scarce dollars, whether it’s moving to the cloud, or cybersecurity.

We are serious about working with you.  We know that you have an enormous amount to do to compete in today’s domestic and global environment.  We want to see our companies remain strong and to prosper.  We also want to ensure that others that are not as savvy can learn from the best practices that you all are putting together to deploy IPv6, work out technical snags, and innovate to ensure that IPv4 and IPv6 talk to each other during the transition. 

This morning’s IPv6 Summit was extremely timely and keeps the momentum going on this important collaborative effort.  Thank you for your time. I am here for the rest of the day and would welcome a chance to talk to you about your efforts. And stay tuned for our next IPv6 event in a few months.