‘New Paradigm’ gets an expansive platform for post-regulatory approaches

LAS VEGAS. If ever there were a venue for promoting “the new paradigm” around cybersecurity -- the post-regulatory approach advanced by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler -- this week’s CTIA “Super Mobility” conference was that place. It had the hype, flashing lights and buzz of the Super Bowl combined with an old-fashioned Big Top event.

Key players on cyber policy, starting with Wheeler and including officials from the Homeland Security and Commerce departments, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and numerous stakeholders from telecom and other industries, on Wednesday all pressed a message of collaboration against a backdrop of technological innovations almost unimaginable two decades ago.

The displays on the showroom floor at the Sands Expo convention center were designed to provoke double-takes, featuring swirling drones, shimmering smart homes, satellite services and other potential and existing services from the Internet of Things and next-generation 5G telecom.

Wheeler, in an opening keynote, repeatedly stressed industry’s leading role and the FCC’s determination not to inhibit innovation. Wheeler was CEO of the CTIA for a dozen years, until 2004, and delivered a well-received presentation, even though he has often exasperated telecom representatives with perceived tilts toward regulation.

Competition, making spectrum available, and “stay[ing] out of the way” as industry innovates and implements new advances are the key ingredients to making the 5G future happen, Wheeler said. But cybersecurity must be addressed in the design phase of these new technologies, he said, while it is also “imperative” that internet service providers have privacy policies in place.

Tensions remain between regulators and the regulated telecom sector. Nothing would be resolved here in outstanding debates over how the telecom sector demonstrates the effectiveness of its cyber efforts, for instance.

A senior FCC official noted to Inside Cybersecurity that Wheeler’s proposal for structuring “assurance meetings” between telecom companies and FCC officials to discuss cybersecurity remains on “circulation” among the FCC commissioners.

The FCC’s advisory body, the Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council, recommended the meetings in a highly acclaimed report over a year ago, but how to legally protect companies in the process has been a stubborn sticking point.

But the emphasis throughout Wednesday -- the opening day of the massive conference, with three panels devoted to cybersecurity issues and another focused on broader FCC regulatory matters -- was on collaboration and how the telecom and IT sectors have led the way on innovation and must continue to do so.

CTIA president Meredith Baker during her opening presentation called for fair play in privacy rules, which should apply equally to all stakeholders, as the FCC pursues a controversial privacy proposal.

Later, the message to the next administration during a panel on the cybersecurity ecosystem was don’t undermine partnerships and collaboration, or rush to regulation.

On another panel that discussed “a new paradigm on cybersecurity: partnership vs. regulation,” the FCC’s associate public safety chief Nicole McGinnis said “public-private partnerships are fundamental to the work we’re doing” and that Wheeler “has made clear” that cyber efforts should be industry-led.

The FCC is “trying to reach out through conferences, monthly calls” with state-local-tribal officials, and through the federal inter-regulatory agency forum, which Wheeler will take over as chair later this month, McGinnis said. She added that the commission is taking special interest in reaching out to small and mid-sized telecom companies.

NIST’s Matthew Scholl noted his agency gets uptake from industry because it is “non-regulatory, small and non-classified.”

Ditto, said Glenn Reynolds of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, who noted that NTIA is engaging with industry on cybersecurity and privacy, for instance, as well as patches for the Internet of Things.

“Things are changing so rapidly and so dramatically, there’s potential for some win-wins,” Reynolds said. The NTIA wants to “bring folks together and find common ground where the market is not yet working."

That message echoed throughout the day and was aimed at the thousands of conference participants -- but also, and maybe especially, at whoever moves into the next administration’s leading policy roles next January.

Charlie Mitchell, editor, Inside Cybersecurity

Article reposted from InsideCybersecurity


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