David J. Redl abruptly resigned today as head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration after, sources said, he was told by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that he would be fired if he didn’t quit in the wake of disagreements over spectrum issues, including a controversy concerning the 24 gigahertz band.
“On this public service recognition week, I wanted to let you all know that I remain in awe of the amazing work that all of you do. That’s why it’s with a heavy heart that I let you know that I have submitted my resignation to the President,” Mr. Redl told NTIA staff this morning in an e-mail obtained by TR Daily. “NTIA is an amazing organization and you are all the kind of professionals that any political appointee would be honored to serve alongside. In my 18 months here, we’ve made meaningful contributions to so many areas of communications and technology policy and I know you will continue to beyond my tenure.”
A source said that Mr. Redl was called to a meeting this morning with Mr. Ross and Earl Comstock, Commerce’s deputy chief of staff and director-policy, and told that if he didn’t quit, he would be fired.
Sources said that Mr. Redl had drawn the anger of Secretary Ross and Mr. Comstock due to disagreements over the 24 GHz band and mid-band spectrum that Ligado Networks LLC wants to use to deploy a nationwide 5G network. A source said Commerce officials felt that Mr. Redl did a poor job of advocating on behalf of the priorities of the administration, including priorities on behalf of the government and commercial satellite sectors.
The 24 GHz band issue has drawn concerns from Mr. Ross and NASA and members of Congress, who tried unsuccessfully to convince FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to hold off auctioning the 24 GHz band over concerns about possible interference to climate and weather forecasting operations in adjacent spectrum.
A source said that some people believed that Mr. Redl was not capable of countering Mr. Pai’s moves on positions ahead of the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference later this year in Egypt or was supportive of Mr. Pai’s positions while saying he couldn’t counter them, hurting his credibility.
Mr. Redl has supported efforts to free up government spectrum for commercial use, while Mr. Ross has resisted, another source said, adding that Mr. Ross’s position has angered the White House.
Mr. Redl’s role on 5G issues also has been marginalized by the National Economic Council and its director, Larry Kudlow, according to some sources.
A source also said that the White House was not pleased that Mr. Ross forced Mr. Redl to resign given that under the NTIA Act, the NTIA administrator reports directly to the president as his telecommunications adviser. News reports have often described Mr. Ross as being on the outs with President Trump.
An NTIA spokeswoman declined to comment on Mr. Redl’s departure. A Commerce spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the circumstances of Mr. Redl’s departure.
Also departing Commerce was Mike Platt, assistant secretary-legislative and intergovernmental affairs.
In a statement today, Secretary Ross said, “I thank Assistant Secretary Redl and Assistant Secretary Platt for their service to President Trump, the Department of Commerce, and the American people. I wish them well.”
Diane Rinaldo, the deputy NTIA administrator, has been named acting administrator.
During his tenure, Mr. Redl, a veteran of Capitol Hill and CTIA who started as NTIA administrator in November 2017 (TR Daily, Nov. 21, 2017), was heavily involved in spectrum issues, including the preparation of the Trump administration’s national spectrum strategy. Among other things, he also worked on data privacy and broadband mapping issues.
However, NTIA and Commerce have clashed with the FCC on some matters, such as Commerce’s request that the FCC defer action in its orbital debris proceeding “until completion of the agency actions mandated by the President’s Space Policy Directives” (TR Daily, April 8).
Mr. Redl was praised today by FCC Commissioners, industry entities, and others.
“David Redl is a longtime colleague, who served with distinction during his 18 months at NTIA. He was a vocal advocate within the Department of Commerce for repurposing federal spectrum for commercial use and fostering the private sector’s lead in 5G deployment. I thank David for his service and wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“I commend and thank David Redl for his long career in service to the American people, having had the privilege of working with David both on Capitol Hill and now in our respective roles. While we didn’t always agree, I respect the difficult task he had in managing the unique views of many federal agencies on spectrum policy, and I appreciate his fierce passion and his breadth of knowledge of the issues. I wish him all the best in his next endeavor,” said Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who has been critical of NTIA, including on the review of the 3.45-3.55 GHz band.
He said he didn’t think that Mr. Redl’s departure would hinder U.S. planning for WRC-19.
“No, I don’t see this being problematic,” the Commissioner said. “We have a very capable individual” leading the U.S. delegation in Grace Koh, he added. “I think the delegation does not suffer from any particular loss.”
“From our time in law school together, I have had the good fortune of knowing Administrator David Redl. Through his service on Capitol Hill, his leadership of NTIA, and his work advising the President on telecom policy, David has played a key role in securing U.S. leadership in technology policy,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr. “The country has benefited greatly from his deep knowledge of spectrum policy and his dedicated public service. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told reporters after today’s FCC meeting that Mr. Redl’s “knowledge of spectrum issues is second to none, and I regret that he has stepped down from his post.”
She also said she was concerned about the U.S.’s WRC-19 preparation as a result.
“It’s a serious concern as we head into the World Radio Conference. We’ve already seen public disputes regarding the 24 GHz band,” Ms. Rosenworcel said, also citing disagreement involving the 37 GHz band as well.
“It’s not helpful for our nation’s spectrum policy, and it’s embarrassing, as we head into this important spectrum conference” to see disagreements within the administration on spectrum issues, Ms. Rosenworcel added.
Commissioner Geoffrey Starks praised Mr. Redl’s tenure as a public servant and said he was “sad to see him leave that post.” But he added that the “disjointed” nature of the administration’s spectrum positions was “deeply puzzling.” However, he added, “I would hope that NTIA is able to further its mission.”
“We salute David Redl for his long and distinguished public service, dating back to his time as chief counsel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and we wish him well on his future endeavors,” said CTIA President and Chief Executive Officer Meredith Attwell Baker. “We welcome Diane Rinaldo as Acting Administrator. She brings great experience and is a strong advocate for free market policies. We look forward to continuing to work with her and the NTIA team.”
“NTIA plays an essential role in our national communications and innovation policy. We thank David Redl for his work on behalf of American connectivity and congratulate Diane Rinaldo on her appointment as interim Administrator. We look forward to continuing our work with her and NTIA to advance our nation’s broadband future,” said Jonathan Spalter, president of CEO of the U.S. Telecom Association.
“David’s work at the Department of Commerce with the NTIA, and elsewhere in government, has had a profound and positive effect on the U.S. communications landscape. He was passionate about getting affordable broadband deployed to all Americans and advancing U.S. leadership in new technologies,” said Claude Aiken, president and CEO of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association. “WISPA especially appreciates all that David did with the myriad government stakeholders to help free-up more shared spectrum for commercial use. These important efforts, we hope, will carry forward at the NTIA.”
“As the United States explores ways to better protect privacy, secure its sensitive networks, and deploy its broadband capabilities, NTIA’s work is as critical as ever,” said Jason Oxman, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council. “Moreover, its dedicated team of experts is an important partner for the tech industry as we advance these policies. Diane Rinaldo will be a dedicated and effective leader of the agency during this consequential chapter for innovation in the United States. We look forward to working with her.”
Joy Ditto, president and CEO of the Utilities Technology Council, said, “Administrator Redl is a true public servant, as evidenced by his leadership positions on congressional staff and as the leader of NTIA. We wish him well. NTIA plays a critical role in managing federal spectrum; we look forward to working with the agency to ensure the spectrum needs of energy and water utilities are acknowledged as NTIA pursues a National Spectrum Policy.”
“Upset to hear that @NTIARedl is resigning from his post. He has had a distinguished career in public service and will be missed. Hard to find his combo of knowledge of spectrum, policy and the processes of Washington,” tweeted Rob McDowell, a Cooley LLP partner and former FCC Commissioner. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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