August 17, 2020

Editor’s Note: No Industry Intelligence Aug. 24, Sept. 1, Sept. 7

Dear UTC Members,

Due to the UTC Annual Telecom and Technology conference, starting on Aug. 18, and the Labor Day holiday, Industry Intelligence will not publish the weeks of Aug. 24, Aug. 31, or Sept. 7.

We will resume publishing on Sept. 14.

UTC will keep its members informed of any relevant policy news through the Public Policy Division listserve. If you are a core UTC member and wish to be added, please let the UTC Public Policy Team know.

Thank you!

–The Industry Intelligence Team

T&T Summits, Training Starts This Week! Tracks, Sessions Announced

Are you ready? UTC’s first virtual annual Telecom & Technology Conference starts this week with training and summits!

We are DAYS away from the first-ever virtual Telecom & Technology Annual Conference! The virtual annual conference starts on Aug. 18 and runs through Sept. 4—are you registered?

We are also thrilled to welcome CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams as our keynote speaker! She will engage in a dialogue with UTC Board Chair Greg Angst and UTC President and CEO Sheryl Riggs on Aug. 25.

Conference delegates will be able to engage with presenters, ask questions through virtual chats, and set up private meetings. Attendees will have access to the annual conference session gallery that includes virtual training, summits, pre-recorded sessions, and tracks. Attendees can view the pre-recorded sessions at their convenience or at a scheduled time, after which the panelists in those sessions will be available for a live Q&A.

The eight educational tracks are as follows:

  • Broadband, sponsored by Burns & McDonnell and GrayBar
  • Emerging Technology, sponsored by OTN Systems
  • Infrastructure/UtiliSite, sponsored by Burns & McDonnell and GrayBar
  • IT/OT, sponsored by TC Communications
  • Policy
  • Security
  • Utility of the Future, sponsored by RFL Hubbell
  • Wireless/Spectrum

More information is available at UTC Telecom & Technology!

In related news, all of UTC’s fall regional events will be held virtually as well. UTC and our regional leaders have decided that conducting virtual regional events is the best path for everyone.  Though we’d prefer to see everyone in person, you have our commitment that each regional event will provide attendees with relevant education topics that you expect from UTC’s regional events.

We want to thank everyone who helps make UTC possible and recognize that our events do not happen without your support.

FCC Rejects Petitions to Stay 6 GHz Order as Action Moves to Courts

Federal telecommunications regulators last week dismissed petitions that it delay or postpone the implementation of its controversial order permitting unlicensed devices to operate within the critical 6 GHz spectrum band.

In a tersely worded order last week, Federal Communications Commission staff (FCC, the Commission) rejected separate requests from the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) that the Commission should stay its April 2020 6 GHz rulemaking.

APCO and EEI filed their requests stating that the FCC ignored the mountain of evidence demonstrating that the introduction of new unlicensed devices in the 6 GHz band—without proper mitigation measures—will likely threaten existing mission-critical networks. UTC filed in support of the stay petitions.

Not surprisingly, the FCC denied the stay requests. The Commission stated that it’s April 2020 order was “lengthy” and that it was “grappling” with numerous arguments for and against opening up the band. The FCC said it has done its job by relying on studies and analyses—rather than testing and evidence—that its proposed mechanisms to prevent harmful interference will work. And the Commission simply determined that studies claiming that interference was unlikely were more persuasive than those that found otherwise, it said.

“[T]he Commission considered an extensive record containing numerous technical studies submitted over almost three years to conclude that low-power indoor unlicensed device operations will not have a significant potential for causing harmful interference to users authorized to operate in the band,” the FCC said. “In reaching this conclusion, the Commission explained in detail the reasons why it found certain technical studies more persuasive than others.”

While this was not a surprise, procedurally it means all the action on the order will now move to the courts, where numerous groups, including UTC, EEI, APCO, and others, have filed challenges of the April decision.

UTC will provide additional updates on the court proceeding as things develop.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Court Upholds FCC Orders Favoring Telecom Sector in Pole Attachments

A federal court last week upheld two 2018 federal rules that further shift the pole-attachments playing field in favor of the telecommunications industry.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in an Aug. 12 decision upheld separate Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) orders dealing with telecommunications attachments to utility poles.

In 2018, the FCC in two actions in August and September further tilted the playing field in favor of the telecommunications sector regarding wireless and wireline pole attachments. That August it issued rules on wireline attachments that include new access requirements for pole attachments, including one-touch make-ready (OTMR), designed to streamline the processing of applications and accelerate broadband deployment. In addition to OTMR, the FCC adopted rules regarding preexisting safety violations, overlashing and self-help in the electric space on the pole.

It also revised the rates for pole attachments by stating that incumbent local exchange carriers should be entitled to the same regulated rate that competitive local exchange carriers pay for their attachments. At the same time, the Commission clarified its authority so that any state or local moratoria on the siting of wireless infrastructure, including delays in permitting of wireless devices on utility poles, would be subject to preemption. This declaratory ruling effectively circumvents the provisions of Section 224 of the Communications Act, which excludes publicly owned utilities from FCC pole-attachment jurisdiction.

The September 2018 order FCC adopted similar fees and rates for wireless small-cell/5G infrastructure and imposed shot clocks for state/local review of permits for small wireless facilities (60 days for collocations on an existing structure and 90 days for using a new structure) and it clarified that failing to issue a decision up or down during this time period is not simply a “failure to act” within the meaning of applicable law. Rather, missing the deadline also constitutes a presumptive prohibition (i.e. a violation of Section 253).

In its decision, the court upheld nearly all aspects of the FCC rules except for a provision in the small-cell order dealing with local governments and aesthetics regulations. In this instance, the court determined that federal law, “requires small cell facilities to be treated in the same manner as other types of communications services, the regulation is contrary to the congressional directive that allows different regulatory treatment among types of providers, so long as such treatment does not ‘unreasonably discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent services.. 47 U.S.C § 332(c)(7)(B)(i)(I). We also hold that the FCC’s requirement that all aesthetic criteria must be ‘objective’ lacks a reasoned explanation.”

UTC is still reviewing the court decision.

In related news, the FCC extended the deadline for parties to comment on a cable-industry petition to petition to further lower their costs of attaching their equipment to utility-owned poles. The cable petition was filed in mid-July, and the Commission just days later issued an order requiring comments to be filed by Aug. 19, an unusually quick turnaround.

UTC, Edison Electric Institute, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association last week asked for additional time to file comments, citing the numerous significant policy changes the cable industry seek in its petition (Industry Intelligence, Aug. 10, 2020.

Its order last week, the FCC granted an additional two weeks for parties to comment. The new deadline for comments is Sept. 2, with reply comments due Sept. 17.

As a reminder, UTC has a pole-attachments resource on our website, which you can access here: https://utc.org/utility-poles/.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Division with any questions.

UTC Calendar of Events

Webinars

Committee/Division calls

*NOTE—Due to scheduling conflicts with the Annual Telecom & Technology Meeting, no committees will meet in August

  • Sept. 8: UtiliSite Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Sept. 8: Knowledge & Learning Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • 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