President Donald Trump on Thursday released his initial outline for next year’s budget, and it seems he does have an eye to telecom after all.
According to the budget text, Trump’s plan “continues to support the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in representing the United States interest at multi-stakeholder forums on internet governance and digital commerce.” Additionally, the budget “supports the commercial sector’s development of next generation wireless services by funding NTIA’s mission of evaluating and ensuring the efficient use of spectrum by government users.”
The exact details of Trump’s plan to support new wireless services remains unclear – indeed, the only mention of telecommunications at all came in the quotes mentioned above.
However, for the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker under then-President Obama requested $49 million in funding for the NTIA.
NTIA is part of the Department of Commerce. It manages federal use of spectrum and identifies additional spectrum for commercial use; develops policy on issues related to the “internet economy,” including online privacy, copyright protection, and cybersecurity; and performs telecommunications research and engineering with government and private sector partners. NTIA also oversees the investment of around $4 billion in projects throughout the country funded in 2009 as part of two broadband grant programs: the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the State Broadband Initiative. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) also falls under the NTIA umbrella.
During the 2016 election cycle, Trump proved hard to pin down on telecom issues, aside from broad declarations that he wanted to spur investment in infrastructure. He did have a campaign platform on increasing the country’s cybersecurity, though, where he said he would “order an immediate review of all U.S. cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure, by a Cyber Review Team of individuals from the military, law enforcement, and the private sector.” Additionally, Trump was a vocal critic of Title II and net neutrality, but has stopped short of releasing any policy proposals.
But beyond that, Trump did not have public positions on a number of issues critical to the wireless telecom industry, including 5G, patent reform, infrastructure investment, and spectrum policy during the campaign.
In his early presidency, though, telecom has forced itself into the spotlight. Trump teamed up with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son back in December to announce a $50 billion investment “toward businesses and 50,000 new jobs,” and followed up with news that U.S. wireless carrier Sprint would be bringing back or creating 5,000 jobs as part of that push.
In January, Trump also dipped his toes into the telecom space with the appointment of Ajit Pai as Chairman of the FCC.
Speaking of the FCC, though, more Trump action might be found there in the near future as some reports have rumored a restructuring initiative driven by the new president might be in the works. According to Pai, no determinations have yet been made, but rumor has it the plan could shift some FCC functions to other agencies.
Additionally, the Wall Street Journal recently reported Trump asked about the possibility of holding a spectrum auction as part of discussions around his as-yet-undisclosed plan to invest $1 trillion in the country’s infrastructure.
We’ll have our eye on these and more as we move ahead.
Filed Under: Industry regulations, Cybersecurity