April 20, 2020

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UTC Leads Coalition Urging Protections for 6 GHz Incumbents

UTC led a diverse coalition of public safety, government, and industry organizations in a series of meetings urging Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) officials to put in stronger protections for existing users in the 6 GHz band if it proceeds with its plan to allow unlicensed use.

Throughout last week, UTC and the coalition met with representatives from all five FCC commissioners, including Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Geoffrey Starks.

In the meetings, the groups stressed the importance of protecting incumbent 6 GHz users from interference that will undoubtedly occur should the FCC proceed with its plan. The FCC is slated to vote on its proposal at its April 23 open meeting (Industry Intelligence, April 6, 2020).

In addition to UTC, groups represented in the meetings include the following:

  • American Public Power Association
  • Edison Electric Institute
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • National Association of State EMS Officials
  • National Public Safety Telecommunications Council
  • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
  • Southern Company
  • The Story County Sheriff’s Office

During each meeting, the groups reviewed the many concerns with the FCC draft. In particular, the groups urged the commission to require mitigation measures for all unlicensed use in the band, not just outdoor, and pressed for market testing of indoor devices to ensure they will not interfere with existing 6 GHz users.

In addition, the groups discussed the need for strong, transparent, and quick enforcement should interference occur, and encouraged the agency to ensure strong FCC oversight and balanced representation on its proposed multi-stakeholder working group that is envisioned to oversee implementation of the new 6 GHz rules.

“The parties recommend that the Commission’s Final Order include language that notes that all sectors should be represented and treated equally and that no party should be excluded (and that there should not be any cost associated with membership in the multi-stakeholder group),” the groups told each office.

UTC Vice President and General Counsel Brett Kilbourne scheduled and led the discussions for each meeting.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Senator: FCC 6 GHz Plan ‘Neither Timely Nor Necessary’

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) should delay consideration of its proposed order to allow unlicensed users in the 6 GHz spectrum band so that utilities and first responders can continue their focus on providing their essential services during the coronavirus pandemic, a key senator told the agency last week.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in an April 16 letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, said the FCC proposal is “neither timely nor necessary” and would serve to distract utilities and other essential services from dealing with the unprecedented coronavirus.

“Our water, electricity, and natural gas utilities cannot spare the resources to deal with a complex proposal from the FCC that could dramatically change the reliability of their essential communications during an emergency, nor can police and fire departments,” the Senator wrote. “In addition to contending with the coronavirus pandemic, our nation is entering peak extreme weather season where the electric sector must devote sufficient resources to mitigating the damages from natural hazards such as wildfires and hurricanes.”

Sen. Murkowski chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

UTC has been meeting with Sen. Murkowski and her staff over the last several years. UTC discussed the 6 GHz proposal in an October 2018 Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on blackstart resources. Sen. Murkowski first sent a letter to Chairman Pai in June 2019, asking detailed questions about the 6 GHz proceeding and whether the agency had been meeting with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or other electric industry organizations.

Chairman Pai responded with a brief letter to the Senator in January 2020.

“It took you seven months to reply to my June 14, 2019, letter on the importance of the 6 GHz spectrum to utilities and emergency responders,” Sen. Murkowski wrote. “Regrettably, your response did not address my questions about how the FCC has been cooperating with regulators and experts in the energy industry to ensure that this FCC proposal will not impact essential communications. I can only assume that the lack of response is because the FCC has failed to adequately cooperate or consult with these entities.”

UTC appreciates Sen. Murkowski’s continued support on this issue and looks forward to working with the Senator and her staff.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Utilities, Public Safety, Comms, Government Groups Push for 6 GHz Protections

UTC joined a broad coalition of public safety, government, and industry groups urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) to strongly protect existing, licensed users in the 6 GHz band as it considers opening it up to unlicensed use.

In a letter filed last week, the coalition noted that each of the signatories on the letter have worked individually in good faith with the FCC to come up with possible solutions to allow unlicensed use in the band, but the draft order under consideration next week does not do enough to protect incumbents in the band.

“The Commission cannot protect public safety and critical incumbent operations from harmful interference by simply reducing power limits from the level initially proposed by the unlicensed community – an [Automatic Frequency Coordination] AFC that can direct unlicensed devices to operate only on particular 6 GHz frequencies, depending on a device’s particular location, is imperative,” the groups said.

Aside from UTC, groups signing the letter include CTIA, the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association, American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, Association of American Railroads, the Competitive Carriers Association, the Electric Power Supply Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Importantly, the groups urged the FCC to ensure AFC protection for all uses in the band, noting that studies have been submitted into the record demonstrating that even indoor, low-power devices will cause interference without protections.

“The Commission cannot protect public safety and critical incumbent operations from harmful interference by simply reducing power limits from the level initially proposed by the unlicensed community – an AFC that can direct unlicensed devices to operate only on particular 6 GHz frequencies, depending on a device’s particular location, is imperative,” the groups said.

Additionally, while supportive of the FCC’s concept to establish a multi-stakeholder group to work out technical issues during deployment, the groups encouraged the agency to ensure this group has appropriate guidance and balanced representation to include incumbent users.

“With specific direction from the Commission, and with all interested incumbents and other stakeholders adequately represented, the multi-stakeholder effort can focus on developing technical solutions that will permit use of unlicensed devices in the 6 GHz Band while also protecting mission-critical operations,” the groups said.

The FCC is slated to vote on the 6 GHz order at its April 23 meeting (Industry Intelligence, April 6, 2020).

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Member News: Dominion Signs MOU to Push Broadband in Rural Eastern Virginia

All Points Broadband, Dominion Energy, Northern Neck Electric Cooperative and the Counties of King George, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to advance a regional broadband partnership that aims to deliver fiber-optic broadband service to unserved households and businesses in Virginia’s Northern Neck Region.

“Connecting unserved communities to broadband makes online learning, telehealth, and telework more accessible, which is particularly necessary as the COVID-19 pandemic forces us to rely on virtual services,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “I’m encouraged to see a regional initiative with so many partners coming together to make sure more Virginians can get the services they need from home.”

“With our roots in public service, Dominion Energy is driven to contribute to the quality of life and economic prosperity in the communities we serve,” said Ed Baine, senior vice president of power delivery for Dominion Energy. “This partnership on the Northern Neck is the most ambitious and comprehensive initiative to date to expand broadband access to unserved Virginians, and the coronavirus outbreak has proven that this is more important than ever. We are excited to partner with Northern Neck Electric Cooperative, All Points Broadband and each participating county to help support the expansion of this critical service.”

Under the agreement, All Points, Dominion Energy, Northern Neck Electric Cooperative and each participating county will work toward a phased approach that will result in a petition to the State Corporation Commission to seek regulatory approval later in 2020.

Currently unserved residents of the Northern Neck can preregister for service and sign up to receive updates on the initiative online at https://broadbandforva.org or via email at info@broadbandforva.org.

As a regulated electric service provider that is using modern telecommunications infrastructure to transform Virginia’s energy grid, Dominion Energy is in a unique position to help bridge the digital divide and continues to explore additional opportunities to expand broadband access. Under a pilot program authorized by 2019 legislation patroned by Delegate Israel O’Quinn and supported by Senators McDougle and Stuart and Delegate Ransone, the middle-mile fiber that the company is deploying on the Northern Neck will be leveraged by All Points Broadband to connect currently unserved homes and businesses. The fiber infrastructure will also provide the capacity to improve utility efficiency and reliability for customers across the four-county region.

UTC’s Sheehan Picked to Serve on U.K. 5G Panel

UTC’s own Tracey Sheehan was named to a key United Kingdom panel focused on telecom security policies and lessons learned from the U.K.’s 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme. Ms. Sheehan, UTC’s Global Advisory Committee Director, was named to the the UK5G Testbed & Trials Working Group Security-Sub Group to address 5G security challenges.

Ms. Sheehan was selected from a strong field of candidates who put themselves forwards, confirming security as a particular strength of the community in the UK. After careful consideration, the group announced that Mark Hawkins, QinetiQ Fellow and 5G Technical Lead, will chair the sub-group and work alongside the following members to provide guidance to UK testbeds as they develop and test their respective security principles and policies.

In addition to Ms. Sheehan, other members of the sub-group include:

  • Woon Hau Chin Toshiba Research
  • Stephen Douglas Spirent Communications 
  • Francesca Serravalle Colt Technology Services
  • Mark Shepherd National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC)
  • Adrian M NCSC
  • Anas TawilehSystematics Consulting Inc 
  • Saj HuqPlexal (LORCA)
  • Ciara Mitchell ScotlandIS 
  • David Cuckow British Standards Institution (BSI)
  • Darwin Darwin CGI
  • Greig Paul University of Strathclyde
  • Mike LeeOfcom
  • James Cook Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) 

The Security Sub-Group, along with consortia teams and UK5G’s associate partners, will identify security gaps, solve security problems and showcase good end-to-end security practices.

UTC CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls

  • RESCHEDULED! Aug. 31-Sept. 4, 2020: Telecom & Technology Annual Meeting, Providence, RI
  • RESCHEDULED! Aug. 4-6: Broadband Workshop, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Charlotte
  • RESCHEDULED! Oct. 12-14: Region 6 Meeting, Double Tree by Hilton Kansas City-Overland Park

Webinars

  • April 21: Small Cell Pole Attachment Best Practices
  • April 28: How Utilities Empower Broadband Deployment
  • May 7: Five Reasons Your Utility Should Consider Investing in Broadband
  • May 12: UTC Training Webinar: Utility Backup & DC Power Systems – Part 1
  • May 14: UTC Training Webinar: Utility Backup & DC Power Systems – Part 2

Committee/Division calls

  • April 23: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • April 28: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • May 12: UtiliSite Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • May 15: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • May 20: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • May 21: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Rob Thormeyer