Trump Commerce nominee Ross pledges to do his ‘best’ to free up government spectrum

Wilbur Ross
WIlbur Ross testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, saying he will do his best to persuade government agencies to free up spectrum they don't need.

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary, billionaire Wilbur Ross, is not only a big proponent of the cloud, but he’s also gung-ho to free up more spectrum and put it into the commercial sector.

“We need more spectrum in the private sector and I will try my best to help convince those government agencies that have spectrum and don’t really need it to permit it to be commercialized,” he said during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday.

That strategy may help extend broadband to some of the more rural communities and other segments that are under-served right now, he said. Later, he added that there would need to be a balance between national security and freeing up airwaves, the Morning Consult reported.

Ross, who made a name for himself by revitalizing the steel industry, was introduced by Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), who said he looked forward to supporting Ross’ nomination. He noted in his introduction that Ross’ experience turning around businesses should help him anticipate and mitigate the risks of major programs like FirstNet, the independent authority charged with creating a nationwide broadband network for first responders, and the acquisition of critical weather satellites by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Ross said during the hearing that he’s a very big proponent of cloud—“We’ve used it a lot in private sector”—and it’s not only more efficient but probably also more secure. He added that it’s important for systems to talk to one another and noted there’s a lot of silo communications going on in the Commerce department, something he would try to address.

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Asked by Thune specifically about FirstNet and whether he will commit to being engaged on the progress of it and report to the committee any waste, fraud or abuse that he sees related to it, Ross said: “I certainly support the concept of FirstNet. I gather there is some controversy in some states about it and I gather there have been some technical issues,” but the idea of giving the first responders all the tools that could be useful to them has to be the right direction to go. To the degree there are issues with it, he said he will do his best to figure out how to overcome those.

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Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) asked Ross if he considered broadband to be part of the infrastructure revitalization project. “I think broadband is an essential part. Broadband is to a very large degree a path to the future and I think therefore it’s a very essential component of economic policy,” including the infrastructure component, Ross said.