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House Passes NTIA Reauthorization Bill to Address Modern Telecom Needs

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On May 15, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the first time since 1992. The legislation, passed with a vote of 374-36, aims to update the mission and functions of the NTIA in response to significant changes in the telecommunications landscape.

The bill, initiated 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, reflects the evolving role of the NTIA. Blair Levin, an analyst with New Street Research, emphasized that the NTIA has become a crucial player in telecom issues today.

Key provisions of the bill include extending the NTIA’s mandate through the fiscal year 2025 and elevating the head of the NTIA to the rank of Under Secretary of the Department of Commerce. Additionally, the legislation codifies the NTIA’s current responsibilities and grants statutory authority to two offices focusing on public safety communications and international telecommunications policy.

The reauthorization also includes the Plan for Broadband Act, which mandates the NTIA to devise a strategy to bridge the digital divide. Furthermore, the NTIA is tasked with improving spectrum resource efficiency and implementing a process to evaluate the national security implications of foreign ownership in telecommunications.

NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson highlighted the necessity of the reauthorization, noting that the last update occurred before the rise of major technological advances such as Google and the widespread use of the web. The new legislation addresses emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and open radio access networks (O-RAN), aiming to provide clarity on the NTIA’s role in the current tech environment.

The bill has garnered support from industry groups such as the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), USTelecom, and WISPA, underscoring its significance for the future of US telecommunications.

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