12/8/18 This is a very busy time for all of us here at UTC – budgeting for 2019, developing our 2019 work plan to implement the first year of our new strategic plan, having our annual staff retreat, having our holiday party, going to other organizations’ holiday parties, planning for our spring set of meetings, focusing on two key advocacy efforts – 6 GHz and resilience/storm restoration issues, and moving offices! Yes, we’re moving from our D.C. office to an office in Crystal City (Arlington), Virginia. The new location is right next to Reagan National Airport and close to the Pentagon.  It also happens to be one of two new locations for Amazon’s expanded headquarters.  Luckily, our lease negotiations began before that announcement was made, which...

11/14/18 I am traveling this week – first to Orlando for the NASUCA (National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates) and NARUC (National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners) meetings then to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, for UTC’s Industrial Internet of Things Workshop.  We’ve worked with the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA) to dovetail our workshop with one of their meetings and look forward to this opportunity to work more closely with them. I do not look forward to the 60-degree temperature fluctuation from Orlando to Ottawa, but I’ll be inside most of the time, right? Just before I left on Veterans Day Sunday (thank you to all veterans – including our own Karnel Thomas of UTC, my dad and brother), I requested that my horse, Ginny, be moved to...

11/2/18 As I have been reading about the race to 5G and the push by the telecom carriers to access utility and other poles as expeditiously as possible to win the global race -- all supposedly for the greater good of the country while providing broadband to rural America and winning the “Infinity War” of all things that could ever relate to technology, I thought to myself…hmmm.  And then I remembered the song, “Things That Make You Go….Hmmm” by C+C Music Factory, released in 1991.  Apparently, this song was an homage to a skit from the Arsenio Hall Show.  But I digress, and I am dating myself… I guess what makes me go hmmm about the race to 5G (and all of its as yet unfulfilled promises)...

10/15/18 In the last couple of weeks, I’ve gone from spending a few days in the heartland of the country (Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where UTC’s Region 5 meeting was held) to being back in D.C. testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Two very different, seemingly disconnected, locations. But the Region 5 meeting couldn’t have been better preparation – and a literal and figurative shot in the arm (more on that in a bit) – for my testimony the following week. Region 5, which includes the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and with the expansion of the U.S. northern tier regions into Canada, the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, has long been an engaged group that holds a robust annual meeting. This year, the region's leadership...

I’m writing this blog on a plane to Malmö, Sweden, for the European UTC’s (EUTC) conference. It’s the first time I’ve been to a Scandinavian country and, I am ashamed to admit...

9/14/18  As I have watched the news accounts about Hurricane Florence moving into the Southeastern coastline this week, along with the alerts from our government partners (DOE, DHS) and electric sector colleagues (EEI, APPA, NRECA, and others involved in the Electric Subsector Coordinating Council), I have been reminded of the crucial nature of electricity and the high levels of dedication required of all utility personnel.    [caption id="attachment_18731880" align="alignright" width="293"] Crews Ready to Respond[/caption] By multiple accounts, at least 40,000 utility workers have been mobilized to help the Carolinas and Georgia in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.  These workers may be away from their families for days or weeks, depending on the severity of the storm.  Workers in other industries travel and spend time away from loved ones as well, but I can only think of a few that also require workers to perform highly technical tasks in often dangerous environments. ...

8/31/18 This week, we have all heard many things about the life of Senator John McCain and why the entire nation is mourning his death. I have a personal reason to do so – my stepfather, Captain Gerald (Jerry) Coffee, USN (Ret.) was a POW with him in Vietnam, and actually shared a cell with Senator McCain for part of that time. My father, Colonel John Ditto, USMC (Dec.), also was a contemporary of Senator McCain and they knew each other early on in their careers. When I came to Washington, D.C., in 1993 just after graduation from college and essentially jobless (although I had lined up a job waiting tables), my first stop was Senator McCain’s office. Of all of the places I had sent letters...

8/16/18 It is summertime, and while for some, summertime means basking in the sun at the beach or baking in the sun at swim meets, or, in the case of D.C. this year, getting rained on but still being hot, for others it means baseball…and more baseball. We have a couple of people on staff who-must-not-be-named, but what the heck, I’ll name them anyway – Sharla Artz and Rob Thormeyer – who are obsessed with baseball, and particularly with the Washington Nationals. Having lived in the D.C. area for about 25 years, I vividly remember many years sans Nationals Park when we had to trek up to Baltimore to catch a game, so even though my baseball fandom is comparatively minor vis-à-vis that of Sharla and...

7/27/18 Education UTC just completed a busy week with our Board of Directors here in Washington, D.C. Fondly termed “Board Week,” but not to be confused with “Shark Week” (#oneofmyfavoriteweeksoftheyearbutmykidscannothandlewatchinggreatwhitesharkseatsealssocanonlywatchatnight), we engaged in strategic planning and an advocacy day on Capitol Hill, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). We also hosted a reception on Capitol Hill where we had participation from many of our fellow trade association colleagues. It was a great week, with a lot of interest and engagement from policymakers, kicked off by excellent coverage in Politico’s Morning Energy and Morning Tech on the morning of our advocacy day. Over the last few weeks, my blog has been focused on the key messages we delivered to policy makers this week...

7/19/18 Such is the tagline of the telecom carriers when referencing pole attachments. The rates, terms and conditions that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) has set for pole attachments for investor-owned electric utilities have become so skewed in favor of the attachers rather than the pole owners (now, primarily said electric utilities) that electric ratepayers are on the verge of paying all the costs of the attachments and O&M for huge, for-profit international telecom companies. Okay, but these telecom companies really want to eat the cake, too. So, now that the wireless side of these same entities are touting small cell wireless attachments for 5G, they want to bypass safety protections put in place decades ago. The electric lines are housed at the top...

7-12-18  For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you may be shocked at what I am about to say: Thank you to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) for moving forward on its proceeding to make more efficient use of the 4.9 GHz spectrum band. For those who may be reading this blog for the first time, the FCC is often at odds with utilities' critical communications needs, particularly related to its spectrum policy, and therefore, my views of many of the FCC’s actions are, shall we say, lacking in positive feelings. But in this instance, I am hopeful that the FCC’s Sixth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)in this proceeding could be positive for utilities. A number of years ago, the federal...

 6/27/18 My oldest daughter, Emma, is attending her first “away camp” this week. It’s going surprisingly well given the texts and pictures we’ve seen from the chaperones. I admit to having some mixed feelings – I miss Emma being home, but at the same time I am so excited for her to have this incredible experience and meet some potentially lifelong friends. Having just completed fourth grade, she is also still learning about how to treat others in a group dynamic (and how to stand up for herself when others may not be treating her well) – this camp is perfect for that type of learning given its mission and the input of older counselors to help create these foundational notions of fairness. But, I do...

Friday, June 07, 2018 I have had some “blog writer’s block” (blogger’s block?) over the last week – the first time in almost two years of writing this blog that I have had that experience. It finally hit me as to why: my kids are in the last few weeks of the school year and I have no time to think about anything – every single waking moment is filled. Why should it matter to this blog that all my free-time is filled? Because those free moments are when my mind usually “percolates” and makes connections that manifest themselves in the blog. With no time for that to happen, I have had blogger’s block. So, to clear my head (and to generate sympathy for my current scheduling...

Friday, May 18, 2018 My daughter, Charlotte, who is six years old and in kindergarten, is a confident child. However, in the few weeks leading up to UTC’s annual conference, she had a stomach bug and some ongoing stomach issues, which, I think, diminished her normal confidence and resilience while at school such that she started to have some “issues” with her classmates. While I think these issues had been there all along, my guess was that her physical discomfort left her more susceptible to the slight mean girl nature of most kindergarten girls. It came out that one of her friends was covering her ears every time Charlotte would try to talk to her. My immediate, and unstated, reaction to this was, “the little snot.” But...

Monday, April 30, 2018   According to Merriam-Webster, an oasis is “something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast.” Anyone who’s anyone knows that the tag line for this year’s UTC’s Telecom & Technology Conference in Palm Springs is “The Oasis of Utility Education and Training.” Apropos to the desert, where oases were havens from thirst and hunger, the real meaning for our attendees is to get away from your everyday work lives to learn about the latest and greatest technologies in our utility ICT world, to establish or maintain friendships in the industry and to free up your minds to think more strategically on behalf of your utilities given the ongoing change in the industry. Our goal for the conference is to make it all of these...