Remarks of David Redl
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
July 24, 2018
Thank you and good morning. It’s great to be in Colorado – especially given the hour or so I spent on the tarmac in Cheyenne trying to get here yesterday – and I welcome all who traveled here from Washington and around the country. I’m very much looking forward to today’s meeting and to this year’s ISART, the International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies, co-sponsored by NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences and NIST.
This year’s symposium will examine propagation challenges related to ultra-dense wireless networks. We all recognize the simple fact that our airwaves are about to get a lot more crowded. As 5G becomes a reality, new satellite systems come online, and connected devices are even more widely adopted, we will be asking much of our spectrum resources.
Today’s meeting marks the end of another two-year cycle of the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC). I want to congratulate and thank you for the work you have done, and I am looking forward to hearing the reports on key band characteristics, 5G, enforcement, and spectrum efficiency. These topics will continue to be relevant, and your work makes a significant contribution to increasing our understanding of these issues.
I am looking forward to my first full cycle with the CSMAC. I will be available and engaged with the reconstituted committee as it puts together the slate of questions for the upcoming term. As most of you know, I have focused on spectrum policy throughout my career. I speak your language (as much as any lawyer does), and I plan to speak a great deal with you.
At NTIA’s Spectrum Policy Symposium last month, we talked about the Administration’s view that we’re at a watershed moment in spectrum policy. While it remains our first preference for making spectrum available to commercial services, the old paradigm of clearing out spectrum to make way for new commercial services is not alone going to get us where we need to be to meet future spectrum needs. Our challenge going forward is to ensure U.S. leadership in implementing new technologies such as 5G and in the commercialization of space, while continuing to make sure Americans benefit from important government services and missions, including those that support public safety and national defense.
At the Symposium, I felt energy and enthusiasm about the future of spectrum policy in the United States. As Secretary Ross noted in his remarks, the U.S. is in the forefront of global development of telecommunications and space technologies. We must seize the initiative as leaders. CSMAC has an important role to play. We need you to identify the policy tools that we may not have explored or even fully envisioned. We need you to challenge our assumptions. We need you to share some of the expertise and experience that you have accumulated as you formulated plans and business cases for new networks, satellite systems and services.
For those who are moving on from CSMAC after this term, I extend my full appreciation for what you have brought to this group and to our policy process. I know that I speak for all of my NTIA colleagues when I say that we will miss your insights and your hard work. I’d especially like to thank Janice Obuchowski. Janice isn’t here with us in Colorado today, but she has been a member of the CSMAC since its inception. Tirelessly serving in an advisory role to an agency she once lead, Janice’s contributions to spectrum policy are simply too numerous to recount and her wisdom and insights will be sorely missed. On a happier note, although we have not yet announced the membership for the next term, a good number of you are likely to be continuing on. Let me thank you in advance for all the hard work ahead. I mean it, we plan to push you to be very active over these next two years in helping us address some of the complex spectrum challenges and maintain U.S. leadership in wireless.
Although the final study topics will be finalized down the road, I’d like to offer a preview of where I think we’re likely headed.
First, Congress has given us marching orders, through enactment of the MOBILE NOW Act, to work with the FCC on repurposing 255 megahertz of spectrum, and to study spectrum incentives and bi-directional sharing and other policy opportunities. As we move down a path to viable shared spectrum access, we will have to find ways to provide the regulatory certainty that commercial spectrum users and federal entities need to make longer-term investment decisions.
We’ve also made significant progress toward finalizing the technical aspects of the spectrum sharing arrangements that are key to rolling out the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS, in the 3.5 GHz band. In particular, I want to highlight Dynamic Protection Areas (DPAs). Replacing static exclusion zones with Dynamic Protection Areas will maximize the commercial potential of this band while not losing the assurance that incumbent military radar systems will be protected. This is truly a win-win. While it may be too early for definitive pronouncements, DPAs could serve as a model for additional spectrum sharing opportunities.
We are very interested in digging into the question of whether there may be upside to exploring in greater detail if and how NTIA might be able to lease federal spectrum for commercial uses where there might make sense. This proposal was included in the President’s FY 2019 budget request, and we continue to think it has enough potential to warrant its pursuit.
To a large extent, what Congress has asked us to do will dovetail with the approach the administration is taking to “kick the tires” on potential policy and regulatory mechanisms that can help us optimize spectrum access over the long term.
I also believe that NTIA can tap into this committee’s diverse expertise as we get closer to a 5G world, and we push the envelope in terms of what America can do in space. Questions we need to weigh: What are the technical challenges in deploying communications systems and ensuring they can all co-exist in an increasingly crowded and noisy spectral environment? How do emerging technologies fit into the equation of ensuring that all Americans have sufficient broadband access so they can participate in this hyper connected future? There is no shortage of interesting questions for the next CSMAC to tackle and I am really looking forward to it.
Finally, I want to take a moment to recognize the leadership and dedication of Paige Atkins, who is retiring at the end of the month. Paige’s illustrious career has been defined in particular by devoted public service, both with NTIA and at the Department of Defense, in addition to her time in the private sector and academia. Her absence will be felt deeply at NTIA. She has exhibited true excellence, professionalism and, perhaps most of all, a spirit of collaboration and cooperation in identifying and pursuing solutions to problems. When we talk about moving beyond a zero-sum mentality toward win-win scenarios, in many ways we are describing her legacy for this community. Both in my years on Capitol Hill and in the months that I have worked with Paige directly at NTIA, I have come to rely a great deal on her wisdom and guidance, and I know that we all will miss her, even as we wish her the best in her well-deserved retirement in sunny Florida. Thank you, Paige.
With that, I turn it over to the co-chairs.