Pritzker: Commerce Will 'Look Harder' for Government Spectrum

Commerce Secretary nominee Penny Pritzker promised to "look harder" for government spectrum to share or turn over to private industry and to work on creating a cybersecurity framework that includes industry at the table.

That came in her Senate Commerce Committee nomination hearing Thursday.

Pritzker said she supported the president's goal of freeing up 500 Mhz, that the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (which she would oversee as Commerce secretary) has found 100 Mhz so far, and that she would work closely with the head of NTIA, Larry Strickling, to free up as much government spectrum as possible for commercial use while balancing national security and other issues.

Rockefeller pointed out the she would have to work with DOD on that issue and wished her "good luck" with that.

Pritzker also promised to work with NTIA to make sure it had the best data on how much it would cost to repurpose or share government spectrum.

She also pledged to Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) that she would work with both industry and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and industry on coming up with a cybersecurity framework.

Rockefeller pointed out that the Congress was still trying to come up with bipartisan cybersecurity legislation four years after being told by various government agencies that it was the single biggest threat to national security. He said he had had conversations with a key House Republican on the issue and saw "real opportunity" for such a bipartisan bill, though he immediately took something off that pitch with the observation that it would still be a miracle.

An information-sharing bill -- CISPA -- passed the House earlier this session, but Rockefeller has suggested he would be working on a different bill.

Pritsker said she would make sure industry had a stake at the cybersecurity table, and would help them understand what the stakes were in coming up with the framework. She spoke from experience. Pritkzer, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotels fortune, is also an entrepreneur who has built five companies. One of her businesses is the target of 3.8 billion cyber incidents a month, she said, three times the number it faced three years ago, and 50 times the complexity. She said she fully appreciated what the country and industry were up against.

Rockefeller asked her to commit mind, body and soul to FirstNet, the interoperable broadband emergency communications net funded by the broadcast incentive auctions.

She said she understood the importance of the network to public safety and would impress upon the FirstNet board the importance of getting the network built out as efficiently and expeditiously as possible.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.