September 14, 2020

UTC Board Approves Resolutions on Broadband, Spectrum, Collocation

The UTC Board of Directors on Aug. 24 approved a slate of resolutions setting the Association’s policy priorities for the rest of the year.

[NOTE: If you missed any of our first-ever virtual Telecom & Technology Annual Conference, all the sessions are archived and will be online for the next several months.

You can access the content here: www.utctelecom.org and follow the links to the virtual event. In addition, should you require continuing educational credits, you can find the paperwork necessary in Networks.

Please let us know if you have any trouble.]

Traditionally UTC resolutions are approved by core utility members during the Membership Meeting at the annual Telecom & Technology conference. Because this year’s conference was postponed from May to August and held virtually, the UTC Board of Directors exercised its authority under UTC’s resolutions process to vote on the resolutions in lieu of the membership.

The resolutions are available on the UTC website:

    • In this resolution, UTC:
      • Urges the FCC to encourage voluntary, market-based agreements between electric utilities and wireless providers as the best and proven means for deploying 5G and small-cellular services throughout the country;
      • Opposes the CTIA petition to impose the current regulatory scheme applicable to attachments to electric distribution poles on streetlight colocation, which would frustrate and delay 5G Infrastructure deployment
      • Encourages the FCC to not only deny the CTIA petition (relating to streetlights), but also should consider revisiting its existing regulations which inhibit the deployment of wireless facilities on electric distribution poles; and,
      • Encourages its members to develop and implement innovative and mutually beneficial streetlight colocation programs in order to help win the Race to 5G.
    • In this resolution, UTC:
      • Supports and encourages the federal government’s funding opportunities to expand broadband deployment throughout the U.S.;
      • Urges that all barriers to electric utilities accessing funding opportunities be eliminated;
      • Encourages state public utility commissions to support programs which permit their regulated investor-owned utilities to provide appropriate measures to assist the expansion of broadband in their service territories; and,
      • Recommends that electric utilities of all ownership types and sizes, regardless of location, empower broadband deployment. The Utilities Technology Council encourages its members to consider the ways in which they can assist in bridging the Digital Divide.
    • In this resolution, UTC:
      • Calls for a broad, holistic conversation on the energy and water industry’s spectrum needs. This discussion should include but not be limited to the following:
        • Exploration of suitable bands for utility purposes Exploration of potential sharing with federal agencies
        • Exploration of adequate protections for utility spectrum needs
        • Exploration of future utility spectrum needs; and,
      • Will establish a working group to propose a national utility spectrum plan that will outline the industry’s use cases for current and future spectrum needs, and the best ways to pursue those needs.

Utilities Seek Judicial Stay of FCC’s 6 GHz Order

UTC joined a host of utility organizations in asking a federal court to prevent the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC, the Commission) April 2020 rulemaking that allows millions of unlicensed devices to operate in the critical 6 GHz band from going into effect.

In an emergency petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week, UTC, the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association asked the court to delay the implementation of the FCC’s order until after the same court determines whether the new rules are legal.

UTC and the utility organizations filed suit last month against the FCC’s April 2020 order that permits unlicensed operations in the 6 GHz band (Industry Intelligence, Aug. 3, 2020).

In its stay request, the groups stated that the FCC’s rules, which allow millions if not billions of untraceable devices to operate in the heavily used 6 GHz band without any evidence that such a plan can protect existing users of the band, including utilities and public-safety entities.

Because any interference to utility communications is a threat to grid reliability, the court must not allow the FCC’s rules to become effective until after it determines whether the rules are legal, UTC and the utility groups said.

“Once the devices are deployed, these harms are irreversible; the order provides insufficient mechanisms to prevent devices from operating outdoors and lacks any procedure to identify, locate, or eliminate devices causing interference,” the utility groups stated.

Shortly after the stay was filed, the court set the following briefing schedule to litigate the requests: The FCC’s reply to the stay motion is due Sept. 14, and UTC’s collective response is due Sept. 18.

Once the DC Circuit has acted on the stay requests, the schedule for the filings in the case will be set.

In related news, UTC led the development of an open letter to the FCC regarding the 6 GHz Multi-stakeholder Group (MSG), the informal group tasked with implementing the technical rules from the FCC’s April 2020 6 GHz rule.

The letter was distributed in advance of the second meeting of the MSG on Sept. 11.

The letter reaffirmed our commitment to the MSG process but also stated that the group must address certain issues, such as testing and implementing of security and protocols for the Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) system and testing of low-power indoor devices prior to their initial deployment.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC 2020 Awards Recognize Importance of ICT Networks to Grid Reliability, Resilience

UTC marked the launch of its first virtual annual Telecom & Technology conference last month by announcing numerous awards to utilities and personnel who demonstrated initiative, perseverance, and innovative thinking throughout the past year.

UTC’s awards recognize the importance of utility Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems and the employees who build, operate, and maintain these systems to support the reliability, resilience, and safety of the nation’s electric systems. From storm response to day-to-day reliability, ICT networks can also provide opportunities for communities to enhance economic prosperity, provide innovative new services, and support health, education and access to critical services.

“Congratulations to all of our winners this year,” said UTC Chairman of the Board Greg Angst of CenterPoint Energy. “2020 has been an especially trying year for our world and our industry. Yet time and again, our incredible workforce has risen to the challenge to provide our essential utility services in the midst of unprecedented challenges. These awards go to the heart of what makes UTC so special—the people, the utilities, and the vendors who make up our membership. Every day our members work hard to support reliable, resilient, and affordable energy and water services to people and businesses. It is an honor to recognize a select few for their service.”

The 2020 UTC Award Winners are:

  • APEX Award – Recognizes individual accomplishment and organizational commitment for outstanding projects undertaken by utility telecom workers.
    • WINNER: Ameren Services, for completing a communications network overhaul to accomplish the following:
      • Provide robust wireless coverage of entire service territory (65,000 sq. miles)
      • Provide strategic, scalable wireless capability for new technologies
      • Simplify operations from 15-20 wireless networks to 1-5
      • Reduce operational costs below what’s required to maintain 15-20 networks
      • Utilize the current IP/MPLS backbone and management system
  • Dondanville Award – Established in 1989, named in honor of UTC’s first President & CEO, Russell V. Dondanville, this award recognizes an individual’s extraordinary service and dedication to UTC over the years through active participation in numerous Association activities.
    • WINNER: Brett Kilbourne, General Counsel and Vice President, Policy, UTC
  • Meehan Award – Established in 1998, the Meehan Award is named in honor of UTC’s first Executive Director Charles M. (Mike) Meehan. It recognizes individuals for their extraordinary leadership in projects during the past year that greatly furthered the interests and objectives of UTC.
    • WINNER: Sheila Wells, Nashville Electric Service
  • Connie Durcsak Visionary Award – Recognizes an individual at a member utility who has personally exemplified and embodied the visionary spirit for our industry that Connie modeled herself.
    • WINNER: Ron Beck, Central Lincoln Public Utility District
  • Chairman Awards – These awards are given in appreciation for service to UTC during the past calendar year.
    • WINNERS: Ron Beck, Central Lincoln Public Utility District; Dr. Andreas Breuer, Innogy S.E; Dewey Day, Pacific Gas & Electric; Kevin Huff, Salt River Project; Paul Lambert, East River Electric Cooperative; Tom Perry, UTC; Sheryl Riggs, UTC; Matt Schnell, Nebraska Public Power District; Sheila Wells, Nashville Electric Service
  • Emerging Leaders Awards – Established in 2019, these awards are given to rising stars within UTC member utilities who are dedicated to the critical work of telecom infrastructure, IT/OT, security, and policy.
    • WINNERS: Naisla Barreto, Duke Energy; Ali Mohammed, New York Power Authority; Benjamin Portis, Entergy; Anthony Romero, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association

FCC Proposes Leasing Access for Utilities, Others to 4.9 GHz

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) is expected to vote on a proposal to allow utilities and other entities to lease spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band at its Sept. 30 open meeting.

The draft order under discussion was released on Sept. 9; UTC is still reviewing the proposal.

According to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s most recent blog, the order would permit states to allow utilities and others to lease spectrum from the 4.9 GHz band, which to date has been reserved for public-safety entities.

UTC members in May 2018 called on the FCC to open up the band for sharing with utilities and other critical-infrastructure industries, noting that the band is lightly used.

According to Chairman Pai, the draft order would instead allow utilities to lease the spectrum, rather than share it, through a market-based approach.

UTC is reviewing the draft order and reaching out to members and determine next steps.

In response to media inquiries, UTC President and CEO Sheryl Riggs issued the following statement: “While we are still reviewing the draft order, we appreciate that the FCC is considering allowing utilities access to the 4.9 GHz band. UTC has long identified the 4.9 GHz band as a potential opportunity for utilities to share with public safety. We look forward to engaging with our members and the FCC to determine how this proposal can be improved.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC Calendar of Events

Regional Meetings—All Virtual

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls

Committee/Division calls

  • Sept. 15: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Sept. 16: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Sept. 17: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Sept. 17: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Rob Thormeyer
  • Sept. 18: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart