Transitions

January 8, 4:59 pm

T’was the week after New Year’s, and my pants fit too tight!
But with the sugar binge behind me and UTC’s spring events ahead, the future lookvector-happy-new-year-2017-with-glitters-copys bright!

I think that is all that I can muster in terms of rhyming prowess, so will now revert to good old prose. I named this blog post “transitions” because of the obvious transition from last year to this, but also because of the transition happening in the federal government at the moment and in the frenetic lead-up to the inauguration on January 20. As UTC transitions from 2016 to 2017, we are focused on implementing the “UTC Strategic Membership Plan” (which members can view on by logging into NetWorks); advocating for UTC’s policy priorities at the federal and (periodically) state levels; and ensuring that our spring regional meetings and 2017 Telecom and Technology conference are excellent.

I’ve written previously about the strategic membership plan or “SMP,” and will do so again in the future as we all roll up our sleeves and get going on the goals therein. Therefore, in the rest of this blog I want to talk a bit about the second focus area I mention above, advocacy. Whenever a change of Administration or Congress occurs, there is a lot of strum und drang about what the future will hold. In my 23 years in D.C., I have seen many of these changeovers, both expected and unexpected. And, what I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that with this Administration, as with others in the past, there is a great opportunity to educate on how our industry works and what government’s role is, and should be, in relation to it.

To that end, I have a series of meetings over the next few months with Members of Congress who chair key committees/subcommittees for UTC or who are on those committees/subcommittees that oversee the federal government’s executive branch agencies. We also have two excellent outside lobbyists, Donn Salvosa and Corry Marshall, who are establishing new relationships on our behalf in addition to their existing key contacts on the Administration’s transition team and in Congress. My biggest goal over the next six months is to educate these policy makers on the deployment of telecommunications and IT technologies by utilities, and the need for telecom and IT policy to reflect the crossover into the energy space, and vice versa. At the moment, policy and regulatory structures in the federal government on these matters are stove-piped. This type of stove-piping is never helpful (see my article in the 4Q2016 UTC Journal about IT/OT convergence as an example), but for the future development of more dynamic and efficient electric, gas and water infrastructures, it is downright detrimental. The bottom line:  lots of education is needed and I look forward to working with the staff, our consultants and our members to inform policy makers on these issues.

The other big issue that is the “yang” to the “yin” of the technology benefits – cybersecurity – will continue to be a challenge from a policy standpoint. The cybersecurity policy issues are not particularly partisan in nature, so the transition will not be ideological so much as a matter of identifying the new players and ensuring they know our perspective. On the positive side, the new Administration has definitive views about federal regulation – that it needs to be streamlined, minimized or done away with. On the negative side, security issues seem to trump (pun intended) viewpoints on almost everything else. So, we will have our work cut out for us convincing this Administration and Congress that more cybersecurity regulation on utilities is not going to make us more secure. The bottom line here is that UTC is already part of a broader coalition of trade associations in this space, and we will bring our perspective and knowledge to the debate.

Until we meet again…