April 29, 2019

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T&T Spotlight: Motivational Speaker Rhodes to Kick-off T&T 2019!

[Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, we will highlight sessions at the June 17-21 Telecom & Technology conference. Registration information is here!]

Renowned author, motivational speaker, and business consultant Shawn Rhodes will deliver an inspirational address that will officially kick off the educational tracks at UTC’s June 17-21 Telecom & Technology annual meeting.

Mr. Rhodes, a former Marine Corps war correspondent, will speak during the June 19 morning general session at 7 a.m.; breakfast will be served starting at 6:30 a.m.

Registration is now open for the June 17-21 meeting in Fort Worth, TX.

Drawing from his experience in the battlefield and the boardroom, Mr. Rhodes will provide advice, insight, and perspectives on how utilities can best prepare for the major technological and policy changes that could disrupt the industry.

Mr. Rhodes will discuss how even the best plans to handle these kinds of transitions rarely go smoothly. A TEDx speaker and nationally syndicated columnist, he will share how the best teams and organizations across industries are:

  • Planning for their plans to change
  • Leveraging change when it occurs
  • Ensuring the experiences of senior leaders don’t leave when they do
  • Building engaging cultures where employees share what’s working and what’s not
  • Building the systems that make competition obsolete

Do not miss out on what will be an inspirational and uplifting start to the T&T conference!

FERC Seeks Comments on Proposal to Modify Communications Standards

Federal energy regulators are proposing to accept, with modifications, new reliability standards aimed at securing communications between bulk-electric system control centers.

In a notice of proposed rulemaking approved at its April 18 open meeting, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC, the Commission) directed the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to modify its standards to ensure the greater protection of communications links and data communicated between control centers and “clearly” identify the kinds of data to be protected.

At issue is a Commission directive tasking NERC to modify its Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards aimed at requiring utilities to protect communications links and bulk-electric system data being communicated between control centers (Docket No. RM18-20).

In response, NERC’s proposed standard (CIP-012-1) would attempt to mitigate these concerns by requiring utilities to protect the confidentiality and integrity of real-time assessment and real-time monitoring data transmitted between bulk electric system Control Centers.

While proposing to accept NERC’s standard, the Commission at the same time raised concerns that the standards may not adequately address certain cybersecurity risks. In response, the agency seeks comment on whether it should direct NERC to modify its standards as follows:

  • Require protections regarding the availability of communication links and data communicated between bulk electric system Control Centers; and,
  • Clearly identify the types of data that must be protected

Comments on FERC’s proposed action are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

USDA Opens Application Portal for ReConnect Rural Broadband Program

Utilities and other parties interested in participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Program can now file applications online.

According to USDA, the ReConnect funds will enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second download and 1 megabit per second upload. ReConnect funding applications can be submitted at reconnect.usda.gov.

“Reliable, high-speed broadband internet e-Connectivity is critical for economic prosperity and quality of life in the 21st century, from education to health care to agriculture to manufacturing and beyond,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “We at USDA are very excited to begin accepting applications for funds from this new and innovative program, which will bring critical infrastructure investments to homes, farms, ranches, schools and health care sites in rural America.”

Congress first appropriated funds for the new Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program, known as ReConnect, in 2018. The program will be a proof-of-concept, enabling USDA to create and implement innovative options for rural connectivity by providing various financial packages.

In this first round of funding, USDA is making available at least $600 million in rural broadband projects, through $200 million in grants, $200 million in loan and grant combinations, and $200 million in low-interest loans. The application deadlines for each of these funding packages are as follows:

  • May 31, 2019, for projects seeking federal funds from the grants-only package;
  • June 21, 2019, for projects seeking a combination of federal loans and grants; and
  • July 12, 2019, for projects seeking low-interest federal loans.

This $600 million appropriation from Congress more than doubles federal funding available through USDA’s longstanding broadband programs. Future rounds of funding for ReConnect will be announced later this year.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

USDA Seeks to Fund $483M in Rural Electric Infrastructure

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) earlier this month said it is investing $485 million to upgrade rural electric systems and reduce energy costs. The funding includes nearly $7.1 million for smart grid technologies that improve system operations and monitor grid security.

“Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary [Sonny] Perdue, USDA is a proud partner to utilities and cooperatives delivering reliable, affordable power to rural communities,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley. “These loans will enhance rural economic development and help improve the quality of life for people who live and work in rural America.”

USDA is providing financing through the Electric Loan Program to improve rural electric infrastructure in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. These investments will help build or improve 2,635 miles of line.

South Dakota’s Northern Electric Cooperative is receiving a $24.8 million loan to build or improve 360 miles of line. The loan includes $351,000 to incorporate smart grid technologies such as computer applications, two-way machine-to-machine communications, geospatial information systems and other tools to increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems. Northern Electric serves more than 6,300 consumers over 2,600 miles of line in 10 counties in northeastern South Dakota and one county in southern North Dakota.

Missouri’s Central Electric Power Cooperative is receiving a $72 million loan to finance electric distribution and transmission facilities. The upgrades will supply peak loads, conform to safety requirements and improve the reliability and resiliency of the transmission system. Central Electric also will construct backup control center facilities to ensure the continuity of operations in the event of catastrophe. It serves approximately 187,000 residential and business consumers across 22,000 square miles in 28 counties in central Missouri.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with questions.

Upcoming Events

A snapshot of upcoming UTC webinars, events, and conference calls

  • May 14: Knowledge & Learning Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • May 15: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • May 16: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • May 16: Public Power Division Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • May 17: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Webinar—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • May 21: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • June 17-21, 2019: Telecom & Technology annual meeting