By Lydia Beyoud
Two senior congressional telecommunications aides, David Redl and David Quinalty, are said to be vying to lead the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, several telecommunications lawyers and Hill lobbyists have told Bloomberg BNA on background.
The NTIA is a Department of Commerce agency that plays a critical role in managing one of the country’s most valuable, if intangible, natural resources: radio wave spectrum. The wireless industry is hungry to get its hands on some of those airwaves in coming years, likely giving the agency more influence over the industry’s future.
President Donald Trump will nominate the next NTIA administrator, subject to Senate confirmation. Whoever gets the job will be poised to play a decisive role in the next major evolution of the wireless industry toward 5G networks and pervasive machine-to-machine communication, known as the “internet of things.”
The NTIA administrator “is the coordinator of government spectrum allocations, and the voice of the administration at the Federal Communications Commission and in Congress on communications and information policy,” the House Energy and Commerce Committee said in its announcement of a Feb. 2 subcommittee hearing on reauthorizing the agency.
Redl, current Republican chief counsel for communications and technology on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is said to have thrown his hat into a ring already filled with several other contenders for the position, according to the sources. Redl has been a lawyer with the committee since 2011. He previously worked as director of regulatory affairs at CTIA, the largest wireless industry trade group.
Quinalty, senior policy director on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, is also said to be interested in the role, as well as a possible position on President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council, the sources said. Quinalty has been a GOP aide on the committee since 2009.
Neither Redl nor Quinalty immediately responded to a request for comment.
The NTIA is expected to help make swaths of spectrum currently used by the Departments of Defense and Interior and other agencies available for private wireless industry use during the next four years and beyond.
Both congressional committees have jurisdiction over the NTIA. The House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee is holding the Feb. 2 reauthorization hearing. The subcommittee is expected to focus in part on ways NTIA can help federal agencies more efficiently manage their spectrum and share some of it with the wireless industry, according to a staff memo. Three telecom industry figures who formerly led the agency in at least an acting capacity are scheduled to testify.
Whoever takes over at the agency may be due for a promotion, one of the witnesses, CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker, said in her prepared remarks.
Given the prominent role the NTIA head plays in advising the president on spectrum policy, it would “make sense to elevate the NTIA Administrator’s title from what is now an Assistant Secretary position, to an Undersecretary level position,” Baker said.
“This would also be consistent with the Undersecretary title of NTIA’s sister agency, the head of National Institute of Standards and Technology,” she said. “A stronger NTIA Administrator will be a more successful arbiter of these private and public spectrum needs,” Baker said.
With assistance from Kyle Daly.
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