January 07, 2019

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Editor’s Note: UTC Office Move!

Please note that UTC is moving offices in January! Our last day in Washington is Jan. 15. We are moving to the following address: 2511 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Suite 960 | Arlington, VA 22202 USA.

We anticipate moving into our new space on March 1. The UTC Washington Staff will be working remotely until the new space is ready. Please stay tuned for more information.

With 6 GHz Comments Set, UTC Launches Advocacy Effort

UTC is engaged in a multi-faceted approach to protect utility communications systems located in the 6 GHz band.

Now that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) has set Feb. 15 as the comment deadline on its proposal to open the 6 GHz band to unlicensed use, UTC and like-minded entities are kicking their advocacy efforts into high gear.

“Protecting incumbent utility systems in the 6 GHz band at the top of our priority list for this year,” said UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto. “Our goal is to ensure that the FCC understands the criticality of utility systems in the 6 GHz band and that it takes appropriate measures to protect these crucial networks.”

The FCC formally released the details of its 6 GHz proposal in late December. In a Federal Register notice, the Commission also set March 18 as the deadline for reply comments.

With the deadline set, UTC will begin the new year with a strong advocacy effort, said UTC Vice President of Government Affairs, Policy, and Cybersecurity Sharla Artz. “We will use every tool at our disposal to urge the FCC to protect utility systems in the 6 GHz band,” she said. “The FCC’s proposal impacts a number of critical infrastructure industries, from utilities to railroads, to emergency services, and many others.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team for more information.

As UTC, EEI Seek Greater Collaboration on Storm Response, FCC Launches Inquiry

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) is seeking more information into whether and how utilities and telecommunications companies can coordinate better in the aftermath of disasters.

In a Jan. 3 notice, the FCC asks a series of questions in an attempt to find best practices and ways the electric power and telecom industries can work together on preparation and response to hurricanes, tornados, or other natural and manmade disasters. Comments are due Feb. 2, with reply comments due Feb. 17.

The notice came only few weeks after UTC and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) filed joint comments in the agency’s investigation into the telecommunications industry’s response to Hurricane Michael. In the Michael proceeding, the FCC specifically sought input on how to prevent telecommunications fiber cuts during storm response (Industry Intelligence, Dec. 3, 2018).

UTC and EEI jointly urged the FCC to consider taking a holistic approach to storm response that includes having discussions with other agencies and urging the telecommunications sector to harden their infrastructure in storm-prone areas.

“Electric companies in Florida have gone through an extensive infrastructure hardening program for the electrical grid; and communications service providers would likely see similar positive results by hardening their networks,” the groups said. “Some examples of infrastructure hardening would be strengthening towers and poles to withstand powerful winds, such as the 155 mph force winds during Hurricane Michael. In addition, implementing extended back up power at wireless towers and wireline communication network centers and 911 call centers would also help communications providers to maintain communications when commercial power is unavailable.”

While the timing of the FCC’s Jan. 3 notice seeking input on coordination between the energy and telecommunications industries may be coincidental, it is significant nonetheless as it highlights many of the key issues UTC and EEI mentioned in their comments. Also, the FCC notice specifically references UTC as one of a few entities with which it has discussed cross-sector collaboration.

In this most recent notice, the Commission asks a series of questions on prioritization of service restoration, preparation and coordination, information sharing, and prospective improvements for coordination. It also asks if it should engage with other agencies at the state and federal level as it moves forward.

At first blush, UTC is optimistic that the questions will elicit opportunities to improve disaster response for both industries as a whole. We are encouraged that they are seeking input into what other entities they should coordinate with as well.

With the FCC temporarily shut down as a result of the budgeting dispute, it is unclear how this effort will be impacted (see story, this issue).

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

New Congress Convenes as Partial Shutdown Moves Into Week 2; FCC, NTIA Shuttered

The 116th session of Congress is officially underway and ending the partial federal government shutdown will be the top priority as numerous agencies have temporarily ceased operations.

It is unclear what will end the impasse between congressional Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, and Republicans, who maintain control over the Senate and the White House. Disputes over border-security funding remain the chief obstacle, according to media reports.

The partial shutdown began on Dec. 22, when funding for several agencies expired after Congress and the Administration were unable to agree on budgeting levels. Not every department and agency is impacted, however, as Congress was able to pass appropriations legislation for a number of federal offices last year.

Of the agencies affected, a few are of interest to UTC members: the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are not impacted and remain operational.

Given the number of pending proceedings at the FCC, the agency said that at this point it does not anticipate extending comment deadlines or filing periods while it is shut down, although it will reconsider if necessary once the government reopens.

[For customers of UTC’s Spectrum Services, please note we will continue processing new applications and will submit them to the FCC as soon as the shutdown ends. Spectrum Services personnel are available to assist with spectrum-management needs at any time. More information is available here.]

At press time (Jan. 3), Congress and the White House had not reached a deal. This situation is fluid and will likely change quickly.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

FCC Back to Full Slate After Senate Confirms Starks, Carr to Panel

Just before the 115th session of Congress ended, the Senate confirmed two nominations to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission), giving the agency a full slate of commissioners for the first time since mid-2018.

In a flurry of activity on the evening of Jan. 2, the Senate confirmed sitting Commissioner Brendan Carr to a new term and approved the nomination of Geoffrey Starks to the agency as well. President Trump appointed both Carr and Starks last summer (Industry Intelligence, June 25, 2018).

UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto applauded the Senate vote and urged the Commissioners to engage with sister agencies as the energy and telecommunications industries become more interdependent.

“On behalf of the Utilities Technology Council, I would like to offer our congratulations to Brendan Carr and Geoffrey Starks upon securing Senate approval of their nominations to the Federal Communications Commission,” Ms. Ditto said.

“Electric, water, and gas utilities are in the midst of profound change. These changes are driving an unprecedented convergence between the utilities and the telecommunications industries. Utilities need access to interference-free spectrum to modernize, protect, and secure their critical infrastructure, and telecommunications carriers rely upon electricity and utility infrastructure to deploy their many of their services. Additionally, more coordination and cooperation between both industries is needed to improve restoration of essential utility and voice services after natural disasters.

“This is a unique and opportune moment for the FCC to engage with its counterparts at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to discuss these and related issues, as the interdependencies between the energy and telecommunications industries will only deepen. We look forward to working with Commissioners Carr, Starks and their colleagues at the FCC as these issues progress.”

Commissioner Carr has been serving on the FCC since his first appointment in August 2017; prior to becoming a commissioner he served as the agency’s general counsel and as a member of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s staff.

Mr. Starks, who has not been sworn in, currently serves as an assistant chief in the FCC’s enforcement bureau; before that he worked in the Department of Justice.

The FCC is one of several agencies impacted by the partial federal government shutdown (see story, this issue).

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

NTIA Seeks Comments on National Spectrum Strategy

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is seeking comments on a White House plan to make more efficient use of federal spectrum.

In a notice late last month, NTIA sought input on the National Spectrum Strategy, an initiative the Trump Administration unveiled in fall 2018.

The spectrum strategy will require federal agencies to report back to the White House regarding their current and anticipated spectrum needs to ensure the government has the spectrum required for its mission. Additionally, the President called for a report on how new technologies will impact spectrum supply, with a particular focus on job creation (Industry Intelligence, Oct. 29, 2018).

Comments are due to NTIA on Jan. 22; they can be submitted via email: spectrum-strategy-comments@ntia.doc.gov. The docket number is 181130999-8999-01.

The National Spectrum Strategy is expected to be comprised of regulatory and legislative policies aimed at: increasing spectrum access for all users, public and private; creating flexible models for spectrum management; using ongoing research, development, and testing to pursue advanced technologies; and, among others, improving the global competitiveness of U.S. industries.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with questions.

REMINDER! Draft Policy Resolutions for June T&T Meeting Due Jan. 31

Core UTC members have until Jan. 31 to submit ideas or concepts for potential policy resolutions to be adopted at the association’s annual Telecom & Technology conference in June.

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

As was the case in 2018, any UTC core utility member can submit a proposed resolution or ideas for a resolution 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 June 2019, being held in Ft. Worth, TX. 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 the 2018 annual meeting are available here.

Upcoming Events

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

  • Jan. 15: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Jan. 16: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Jan. 17: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Jan. 17: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • Jan. 18: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • Feb. 12-14: UTC Region 8,9,10
  • Feb. 28: UTC Region 7
  • March 6-8: UTC Region 3
  • March 25-27: UTC Mid-Central