January 28, 2019

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UTC’s Spectrum Services Remains Ready to Serve Despite Federal Shutdown

 

[Editor’s Note: The following article was written by UTC Vice President of Engineering, Training and Standards Klaus Bender. It features UTC’s Spectrum Services, which remained functional during the partial government shutdown.]

Although 2019 is beginning amid a bit of government and regulatory turmoil, UTC’s Spectrum Services is gearing up for a successful year.

The partial federal government shutdown impacted several critical government agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). But as our frequency coordination clients know, UTC’s Spectrum Services continued to accept applications for coordination of Part 90 and Part 101 applications. Once the applications are reviewed and spectrum is assigned, the other PLMR coordinators are notified and the applications are placed in queue for when the government opens. While we do not know when the shutdown will end (Industry Intelligence, Jan. 14, 2019), Spectrum Services will still service your coordination requests.

[NOTE: Media reports late Friday indicate that Congress and the White House reached a tentative deal to reopen the government starting on Jan. 28 for three weeks. We do not know how quickly the FCC will resume all of its functions once it is back operational.]

UTC and Spectrum Services seek to provide whatever relief and protection we can for our members and clients with critical communications systems. In 2019, the FCC may approve the interstitial 800 MHz channels, placing 12.5 kHz channels between existing 25 kHz legacy 800 MHz system. The rulemaking significantly increases spectrum in the 800 MHz band, but also poses regulatory uncertainty for the members with large, existing 800 MHz systems on 25 kHz centered channels. 

UTC’s Frequency Sentry product offers email notification when applications are received at the FCC that could impact client systems. We recommend 800 MHz licensees investigate the service for their existing channels. Notification criteria is based on frequency, location, distance and bandwidth range. 800 MHz clients that set the distance criteria to 113 km and the bandwidth criteria to +/- 13 kHz will catch all interstitial applications filed at the FCC. Interested parties can contact Spectrum Services or sign up for this service at www.spectrumwatch.com/utc. Of course, VHF and UHF licensees can also use Frequency Sentry to protect their spectrum as well.

2019 may be a year of regulatory uncertainty, but our goal is to help members and clients navigate through the confusion. We hope you give us the opportunity to help you!

Utility Communications Networks Threatened by FCC Regulations: UTC’s Ditto

Utility private communications networks–essential for maintaining grid reliability and underpinning the so-called “grid of the future”—could be threatened by a series of rulemakings from an agency that does not understand or acknowledge the criticality of electricity to our national wellbeing, UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto said last week.

Speaking at the widely attended U.S. Energy Association’s annual State of the Energy Industry conference in Washington, Ms. Ditto called attention to recent proposals by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) related to radiofrequency spectrum that, if adopted, will likely impact many utilities’ ability to monitor their infrastructure.

“There are significant rulemakings [at the FCC] that are not going our way because the agency doesn’t recognize the criticality” of the electric utility industry, Ms. Ditto told the audience of energy executives, media, and other stakeholder organizations.

USEA represents most energy related trade associations in Washington. Its membership consists of all elements of the energy industry, ranging from petroleum to natural gas, nuclear, coal, mining, and renewable energy.

Ms. Ditto’s presentation marked the second consecutive time UTC was featured at the annual event. USEA’s State of the Energy Industry conference is typically the first substantive energy conference in Washington of the year.

In her remarks, Ms. Ditto noted that, without telecommunications, the utility industry would not have achieved the level of reliability, resilience, and efficiency it has reached in recent years. Also, these networks are essential to the deployment of intermittent and distributed energy resources and to enable increased interaction with consumers.

“We could not have done what we’ve done [with renewable energy deployment] without these communications technologies,” Ms. Ditto said.

Still, utility’s digital communications networks carry their own unique risks, she said, pointing specifically to cybersecurity concerns. Cyber risks exist, she noted, because of these networks. While understanding how to function without digital communications in a “black sky” event is a worthwhile analysis, the expectations of customers are driving utilities toward using even more of these very communications to enable storage, solar rooftop, and electric vehicle integration, among others, she said. This “push-pull” (push toward more communications and pull away from them) must be acknowledged and understood by policymakers. Utility communications have brought such a level of reliability and innovation that going back is not a real option. Rather the cyber-security and other security risks must be managed over time, she said.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

LAST CALL!!! Draft Policy Resolutions for June T&T Meeting Due Thursday!

The deadline for core UTC members to submit ideas or concepts for potential policy resolutions to be adopted at the association’s annual Telecom & Technology conference in June is fast approaching! All drafts and ideas are due to the UTC staff by Jan. 31—this Thursday!

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.

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 Fort 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.

UTC, EEI Urge Federal Agency to Consider Spectrum Needs of Utilities

The U.S. government should consider the needs of utilities and other critical-infrastructure industries as it determines the best ways to maximize spectrum management for all users, UTC and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) said.

In a filing with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), UTC and EEI said utilities and other critical-infrastructure industries’ spectrum needs serve the public interest and should be carefully considered.

“EEI and UTC and their utility members are pursuing the development of next-generation applications that will improve the reliability, safety and security of grid operations,” the groups said. “This drive to advanced automation will require access to interference-free spectrum to support the increasing communications requirements to support the proliferation of millions of smart grid devices across electric company transmission and distribution networks. Access to interference-free spectrum for modernization of the energy grid is consistent with the National Spectrum Strategy because it will support applications and services to electricity grids and other critical elements in America’s infrastructure.”

UTC and EEI made the filing in response to NTIA’s call for comments last year regarding the White House’s National Spectrum Strategy (Industry Intelligence, Oct. 29, 2018). Although the NTIA is one of many agencies impacted by the federal shutdown, UTC and EEI filed the comments on the agency’s previously assigned due date.

In their comments, UTC and EEI note the extensive private communications systems utilities have established over the last several decades to support the reliable operation of the nation’s electricity grid. As utilities deploy more cutting-edge and other smart-grid technologies, the need for utilities to access interference-free spectrum is only growing, the entities said.

“The operational efficiencies gained from modernizing the energy grid saves enormous amounts of energy and water, and provides even greater benefits in terms of safety and reliability, which also results in downstream economic and societal benefits in terms of increased productivity, environmental quality, public health and homeland security,” the groups said. “These public interest benefits underscore the need for access to spectrum by critical infrastructure industries.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Legislation Would Overturn FCC Rules on Small Cells

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) earlier this month introduced legislation to overturn Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations limiting the ability of local governments to regulate the deployment of 5G wireless infrastructure.

The bill, H.R. 530, the Accelerating Wireless Broadband Development by Empowering Local Communities Act of 2019, was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

It deals specifically with the FCC’s September 2018 rules on siting small cellular devices (Industry Intelligence, Oct. 1, 2018). Those rules restrict the fees and timelines states and municipalities use for considering applications to site small cellular devices.

Several states, localities, and associations have sued the FCC over the rules.

“Having served in local government for a decade on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, I understand and respect the important role that state and local governments play in protecting the welfare of their residents,” said Rep. Eshoo.5G is essential for our country’s communications network and economy, but it must be deployed responsibly and equitably. The FCC let industry write these regulations without sufficient input from local leaders. This has led to regulations that restrict cities from requiring carriers to meet the needs of communities in which they want to operate.”

One vocal critic of the FCC’s rules, San Jose Major Sam Liccardo, applauded the legislation.

“The FCC forced Congress to act by failing to listen to reasonable input from communities across the country, cowering to industry interests, and failing to put the public interests first. This legislation will preserve the ability of local communities to negotiate fair, market-based broadband deployment agreements and close the digital divide that exists for 34 million low-income and rural Americans,” Mayor Liccardo said.

The UTC Public Policy Staff is still reviewing the legislation. We will update members of the Public Policy Division on our next call. Please contact the UTC Public Policy Staff with any questions.

Upcoming Events

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

  • Feb. 19: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Feb. 20: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Feb. 21: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Feb. 21: Public Power Division 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