Advocacy = Change
As I write, it is the morning of Monday, July 17, and UTC’s Board of Directors is making its way to Washington, D.C., to spend the better part of a week considering UTC’s strategic plan and strategic membership plan, conducting other UTC business, doing a deeper dive on what it means to be a member of the Board of Directors, and, last but not least, advocating for UTC’s positions in Congress and at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
First, I want to thank the Board for their dedication to UTC and to all of its members. We have some longer-term Board members and some new folks, but to a person they have committed time, energy, and, most importantly, brainpower, to informing committee activities, white papers, conference programs, helping to prepare comments at the FCC and working with the staff to identify pending or future policy issues that will impact UTC’s members. As we spend the rest of this year developing official UTC policy positions that will be “codified” in the form of resolutions, the Board will also engage in that process.
For this week, the Board plays a crucial role in engaging with policy makers here in D.C. to educate them on the impacts that proposed or future policies will have on the UTC membership. While it is an interesting time in Washington with a new Administration that has not yet filled some of its key appointed positions and ongoing division between the parties on major policy issues like healthcare and overall regulatory policy, it is also a time when infrastructure is being emphasized. The latter gives us the opportunity to mobilize interest on what the FCC is doing and to potentially have a greater impact on the outcome, while the former gives us the opportunity to work with the people we know in the Administration and Congress on areas where there could be common ground between the parties.
UTC has made great strides over the last several months informing Members of Congress and key staff, the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security, and others in D.C. on who we are, what we care about, how we work with the other trade associations in our space, and how these policy makers can help us overcome biases we have encountered at the FCC that negatively impact that agency’s decision-making about issues impacting critical infrastructure. Specifically, we have explained that electric utilities need reliable spectrum access for their critical communications in order to fulfill the expectations of our customers and our government partners that electricity will be reliable and resilient in the event of natural disasters and man-made incidents, such as cyber-attacks, resulting in operational problems. That expectation does not carry over into the policies being implemented at the FCC. For example, the pending pole attachments rulemaking, if finalized as proposed, would detract from utilities’ ability to maintain and secure their infrastructure as attachers squeeze more and more subsidies from electric ratepayers.
The Board’s activities this week as well as the work being done by the broader UTC membership in informing these activities, will make a difference in these crucial debates. Telling our stories and the real-world impacts of policy makers decisions will mobilize some of those policy makers on our behalf and will change the minds of some who have not yet heard our side. We don’t always know who will step up and champion our issues, but we know someone, or several someones, will. The bottom line is, by engaging, we create the opportunity to change minds, embolden our champions who already support us, and spur action.
Until we meet again when I will report on the results of our efforts this week…