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Remarks by Deputy Assistant Secretary Simpson at PLI/FCBA Telecommunications Policy & Regulation Institute 12/03/2015

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December 03, 2015

Angela Simpson
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
PLI/FCBA Telecommunications Policy & Regulation Institute
Washington, D.C.
December 3, 2015

–As Prepared for Delivery –

Thank you to the Practicing Law Institute and the FCBA for inviting me to speak today on behalf of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.  I’m really happy to be able to kick off this year’s conference, and would like to welcome to D.C. to all the folks travelling here today for this terrific event.

I feel like many attendees at this conference are often in a very “FCC-centric” place and that the work NTIA does might be a bit off radar.  But as lines between “telecommunications” and “information” blur, jurisdiction between FCC and FTC becomes murkier, and the economy increasingly becomes truly global, there are a lot of opportunities you and your clients might not be fully leveraging related to NTIA and the Department of Commerce, and there may be things we are up to that you and your clients might be interested in. 

So I’m going to speak just for a few minutes about the work we’re doing at NTIA to promote the digital economy, and then shift to fielding some questions from Chris Wright.

The first area I’d like to talk about is Internet policy and addressing challenging issues that could greatly impact America’s leadership in the global digital economy in the years ahead.  At NTIA, one of our core missions is to protect and preserve the free-flowing Internet, ensuring that it remains a robust platform for economic growth, innovation, and free speech. 

As the Administration’s policy expert in domestic and international fora on Internet and spectrum matters, NTIA helps develop and share the views of the Administration, but we also ensure the views of the business community are considered.  We are working on cutting-edge issues that impact the digital economy – including cybersecurity, privacy, Internet governance, and broadband deployment.  Much of the policy work we do is interagency.  We try to represent the voice of commerce and companies in myriad interagency discussions and initiatives, and hearing from you and your clients to keep our finger on the pulse of technology and innovation in the real world is important in that regard.

One thing I’d like to flag for you is that last month, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker outlined the Department’s cross-cutting digital economy agenda.  The agenda’s four pillars are promoting a free and open Internet worldwide, promoting trust online, ensuring access to the digital economy, and promoting innovation.  We also announced that Commerce is establishing a new Digital Economy Board of Advisors comprised of representatives from industry and civil society.  The Board will provide recommendations on ways to ensure that the Internet continues to thrive.  We urge all of you to pass along information about it to folks you think might be interested. The deadline for applications is December 23.

Probably one Internet-related issue you all have at least read about is the transition of our stewardship role of the Internet Domain Name System.  Since our announcement last year that we were seeking to transition our role, the multistakeholder community has stepped up and spent hundreds of hours developing a proposal that would meet criteria we outlined.  The work is now wrapping up and we expect to receive an official proposal from ICANN by the end of January.  We will spend a good part of 2016 evaluating the proposal.

Over the past year, we’ve also spent significant time helping to find the right policy balances in the digital era through a series of multistakeholder processes on cybersecurity and privacy.  On the privacy front, two workstreams open to the public are currently underway.  One is looking at best practices for commercial unmanned aircraft (UAS) and the other is working to develop a code of conduct on facial recognition technology. 

And while cybersecurity may be more closely associated in your minds with other parts of the government, including our sister agency NIST, we are aiming to fill a gap not covered by other federal efforts and address issues that fall between different parts of the digital ecosystem and can’t be fixed by one company or sector.  In September, we launched a workstream looking at best practices for vulnerability research disclosure.  The second meeting in that process was held yesterday and we are very happy about the progress the group is making.

There is information on how to get involved in any of these proceedings on our website.

Finally, I’d like to mention that in 2015, NTIA was very busy with the U.S. Copyright Office’s triennial review of exemptions from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  We were very pleased that in October the Copyright Office greatly expanded its exemptions, which was in line with NTIA’s recommendations.

The second area I’d like to highlight is spectrum.  As manager of the federal government’s use of spectrum – NTIA has the unenviable job of balancing spectrum needs for the government to meet critical missions, and working to encourage unprecedented information sharing with the private sector that will lead to more spectrum being available for commercial broadband use. 

We are continuing to work with the FCC and industry to meet the President’s goal of identifying 500 megahertz of spectrum for commercial use by 2020.  We are half way there, and believe we are on a sound path to achieving that goal.

The last area I’ll highlight this morning is broadband.  One of the Administration’s key goals is to expand broadband and close the digital divide.  You’ve seen it in action with ConnectED and Connect Home.  You’re probably aware that earlier in the Administration NTIA oversaw $4 billion in grants to help communities expand broadband infrastructure and improve digital literacy.  NTIA is still working with communities to overcome their broadband challenges. Through our BroadbandUSA initiative, we are providing technical assistance and holding workshops around the country.  We’ve also published several resources to assist communities, including a Broadband Funding Guide and an Introduction to Effective Public-Private Partnerships. More tools are on the way in 2016, related to benefits of broadband, forming partnerships, sustainability, and broadband planning toolkits.  This past year, we’ve also been busy with the Administration’s Broadband Opportunity Council.  Twenty-five federal agencies collaborated to find ways to eliminate barriers to broadband deployment. NTIA will continue to lead efforts to follow through on implementation of those ideas.

Related to broadband I’ll also mention FirstNet.  We are working tirelessly toward launching the first nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety.   FirstNet is in the home stretch to putting out its network partner RFP, and we’re gearing up for a busy year getting input and developing policies related to NTIA’s statutory responsibilities such as reviewing FirstNet’s proposed fees and developing the state opt-out grant program.  The fee item is coming out very soon, where we lay out a fee review framework intended to enable FirstNet to operate in a competitive marketplace, giving it the flexibility it needs to meet its business and budgetary goals.  We encourage your clients interested in this space to provide input.

With that, I’ll wrap it up and hand it over to Chris for questions.  Thank you.