December 9, 2019

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UTC Spearheads Broad Coalition-Joint Statement on 6 GHz to Key Hill Panel

A broad coalition representing public safety, freight rail, energy, and utility interests asked a key House subcommittee to press the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) on how it will protect critical-infrastructure industries who use the 6 GHz band for mission-critical communications.

In a Dec. 5 letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, UTC and eight trade associations detailed their shared concerns with the FCC’s proposal to allow unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band.

“We urge this Subcommittee to encourage the FCC to ensure that its spectrum decisions will adequately protect our collective members’ ability to provide their essential services and that the Commission meet regularly with other federal agencies as it develops policies that impact these CII overseen by other agencies,” the letter said.

Associations signing the letter are:

  • Association of American Railroads
  • American Gas Association
  • American Petroleum Institute
  • American Water Works Association
  • American Public Power Association
  • Edison Electric Institute
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
  • Utilities Technology Council

The statement to the House subcommittee is the latest in UTC’s efforts to establish a broad, multi-sector coalition opposed to the FCC’s controversial 6 GHz proposal. Last month, this group, led by UTC, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai outlining similar concerns (Industry Intelligence, Nov. 11, 2019).

The statement urges the House panel to push the FCC to meet with other federal agencies and ensure that its proposal to protect incumbent users in the 6 GHz band works before proceeding with its rule.

“With the FCC poised to act on a proposal to allow unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band, the undersigned organizations have grave concerns that this plan could negatively impact the networks our collective membership operate to sustain the delivery of critical services,” the letter states. “Therefore, we ask members of this Subcommittee to urge the FCC to ensure it will not move forward with its plan to allow unlicensed operation in the 6 GHz band until and unless the Commission has tested and proven that it can protect existing license holders.”

NARUC Passes Resolution Urging FCC to Test 6 GHz System

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) approved a resolution recommending that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) not act on the 6 GHz rulemaking until and unless it has tested and proven that its proposed mitigation measures work before proceeding with a final rule.

The NARUC Board of Directors passed the resolution during its Nov. 17-20 Annual Meeting in San Antonio.

NARUC represents the nation’s state utility regulators who oversee the safety and reliability of electricity, natural gas, and water distribution utilities. It is an influential organization that often weighs in on policy issues before the FCC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Congress, the courts, and other federal entities.

The resolution indicates that state utility regulators have a direct interest in the proceeding given their oversight role over the safety and reliability of electricity, gas, and water services. It urges the FCC to test its proposed mitigation system to protect critical-infrastructure industry incumbents before proceeding to a final rule.

NARUC recommends “the Federal Communications Commission modify its proposal to not allow unlicensed operations in the 6 GHz band unless and until such time that it has tested and proven that its [Automated Frequency Coordination] system works as intended to protect license holders, including utility and [critical infrastructure] systems, and is demonstrated that unlicensed operations will not cause harmful interference to license holders as determined by the FCC,” the resolution states.

In addition to securing their support, NARUC also indicated it will hold a panel discussion on this issue during their February 2020 Winter Meetings.

FERC Staff Identifies Key Cybersecurity Program Priorities

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff last month detailed what it considers the depth of its continuing efforts to address cybersecurity challenges facing the nation’s energy infrastructure.

In a presentation during its Nov. 21 open meeting, FERC staff reviewed several organizational changes the agency thinks will better focus its resources on cyber challenges including creation of a new security-focused group within the Office of Energy Projects’ Division of Dam Safety and Inspections. The group will address cyber, as well as physical, security concerns at jurisdictional hydropower facilities, FERC staff said.

FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee also announced that the Commission’s Office of Electric Reliability would be realigning its functions to establish one division focused exclusively on cybersecurity.

“At FERC, we are charged with overseeing the development and enforcement of cybersecurity standards for the nation’s high-voltage transmission system and jurisdictional hydroelectric facilities,” Chairman Chatterjee said. “These two developments will help FERC staff more efficiently focus its efforts on cyber security. This new security group in OEP and the realignment in OER will consolidate the cybersecurity staff into a division that focuses solely on cyber.”

Drawing on the experience and knowledge of each of the relevant offices, staff said they identified five areas where they will strategically and collectively focus efforts to address critical cybersecurity challenges. The five focus areas are:

  • Supply Chain/Insider Threat/Third-Party Authorized Access;
  • Industry access to timely information on threats and vulnerabilities;
  • Cloud/Managed Security Service Providers;
  • Adequacy of security controls; and
  • Internal network monitoring and detection.

Agency staff also described certain outreach activities and other initiatives they intent to prioritize throughout FY2020. In particular, staff said it will closely monitor supply chain security implementation and the industry’s adoption of new technologies and services to address cyber infrastructure implementation, maintenance and/or management. In addition, the Office of Energy Infrastructure Security continues to build on its existing outreach initiatives, including offering voluntary network architecture assessments and the Office of Electric Reliability will continue to conduct and participate in audits.

Draft Policy Resolutions for May 2020 T&T Meeting Due Jan. 31

Members of the Utilities Technology Council have until Jan. 31, 2020, to submit ideas or concepts for potential policy resolutions to be adopted at the association’s annual Telecom & Technology conference next May.

This will mark the third time UTC pursues policy positions through the resolution process as approved by the UTC Board in its December 2017 meeting.

Any UTC core utility member can submit a proposed resolution or ideas for a resolution to UTC’s Public Policy Team by Jan. 31. Only UTC core utility members can submit a resolution; if a vendor member has an idea, it must be sponsored and submitted by a core utility member.

Once all the proposed resolutions are collected by UTC staff, the Public Policy Division (PPD) will formally accept and discuss the proposals during its regularly scheduled February meeting. PPD members will have the opportunity to edit and debate the proposed resolutions prior to its March call, at which point the division will vote on the resolutions. This call will be open to all UTC core utility members.

Any resolutions cleared by the PPD will be submitted for review and consideration by the entire UTC membership at the annual Telecom and Technology meeting in Providence, RI, from May 18-22. Resolutions for consideration at the annual meeting must be distributed to the entire association membership no later than two weeks prior to the event. Additionally, the proposed resolutions will also be posted on the UTC Website.

UTC’s core utility members will vote on the proposed resolutions during the association’s business meeting at the annual conference. Each UTC core utility member company will have one vote during the meeting, meaning that core members must designate one person to cast the company’s vote.

Any resolutions approved at the annual Telecom and Technology meeting will be considered official UTC policy and will inform the association as it advocates for its members in Washington and elsewhere.

For more information, please contact UTC’s Public Policy Team. An FAQ about the resolutions process is available here.

Resolutions approved at since 2018 annual meeting are available here.

UTC CALENDAR OF EVENTS

UTC CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls

  • May 18-22, 2020: Telecom & Technology Annual Meeting, Providence, RI
  • Dec. 10: UtiliSite Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Dec. 10: Knowledge & Learning Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Dec. 12: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • Dec. 12: UTC Training Webinar: Introduction to Fiber Strength and Reliability for Aerial Fiber Networks
  • Dec. 17: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Dec: 17:  UTC Training Webinar: LTE, 5G and the Future of Utility Communications
  • Dec. 18: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Dec. 19: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Dec. 19: UTC Training Webinar: IEC61850 in the Modern Substation
  • Dec. 20: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz