House votes to modernize NTIA for first time in over 30 years


US House of Representatives passed bipartisan bill to reauthorize NTIA and modernize its role

On Wednesday 15 May, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation to reauthorize the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the first time since 1992.

The goal of the bill is to “update the mission and functions of the agency” due to the extensive evolution of the NTIA since its last reauthorization. New Street Research analyst Blair Levin said that the bill “reflects that in this moment in time, NTIA has become a much more important player in telecom issues.”

The bill was originally spearheaded by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chair Bob Latta (R-OH) in July 2023 as the agency’s “duties have changed since it was last reauthorized.” Rodgers and Latta stated that they “look forward to considering several bipartisan solutions to reauthorize NTIA and help ensure that the agency is adapting to meet the needs of a dynamic communications sector.”

Having passed by a vote of 374-36, the legislation extends the NTIA’s mandate through the fiscal year 2025 and introduces several key changes to the agency.

Significantly, the head of the NTIA will be elevated to the rank of Under Secretary of the Department of Commerce. The bill codifies a number of NTIA’s current responsibilities and grants statutory authority for two NTIA offices which focus on public safety communications and international telecommunications policy.

The bill also grants statutory authority to NTIA Office of Spectrum Management and imposes new procedures for disclosing federal concerns. The NTIA must also enhance spectrum resource efficiency.

Crucially, the legislation includes the Plan for Broadband Act, which requires the NTIA to develop a strategy to close the digital divide. The agency must also implement a new process to assess the national security implications of foreign ownership in telecommunications.

Earlier this week, NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson remarked that the NTIA was last reauthorized in 1992, “before Google existed, before the web was popular.” The latest reauthorization seeks to provide clarity about NTIA’s responsibilities in a quickly-changing telecommunications landscape, addressing emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and open radio access networks (O-RAN).

The passing of the bill is supported by industry groups, including the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), USTelecom, and WISPA.

Also in the news:
UK government conditionally approves £15bn Vodafone–Three merger
Nokia and Vodafone trial Open RAN with Arm and HPE
T-Mobile and Verizon to buy US Cellular, reports say

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