July 27, 2020

Annual T&T Event, Fall Regional Meetings to Go All Virtual! Register Now!

We are just a few weeks 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?

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.

UTC thanks all of our members, technology partners, and stakeholders who make our work possible. We are also especially grateful for the sacrifices many of you are making to keep powering our lives.

We look forward to virtually seeing everyone in August during the conference and expo.

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.

As 3.5 GHz Auction Launches, Utilities Join the Bidding

A number of UTC member utilities were among the 200 or so entities expected to bid into the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC, the Commission) 3.5 GHz spectrum auction, which began on July 23.

Several utilities are participating in the auction; a complete list of bidders is available on the FCC website.

The auction itself marks a milestone for what has been a long and winding road.

In 2015, the FCC first developed rules for the auction through the creation of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) within the 3.5 GHz band. Only three years later, however, the FCC scrapped those rules and initiated a new proceeding to redraw the sizes and terms of the Priority Access Licenses (PALs) that were to be sold within the new CBRS. Initial proposals from the Commission heavily favored the telecommunications industry, which wanted larger licenses with longer terms.

Throughout 2018, UTC worked with a coalition of critical-infrastructure industry representatives to bring about much more favorable terms, and the end result is far superior than what the FCC first proposed.

With the auction—known as Auction 105–now occurring, it will offer county-based Priority Access Licenses in the 3550-3650 MHz band, which the Commission says will encourage the rapid deployment of next-generation wireless networks in the band.

It will also offer seven PALs in each county-based license area, for a total of 22,631 PALs nationwide—the largest number of flexible-use spectrum licenses ever made available for bidding in a single auction. Each PAL will consist of a 10-megahertz unpaired channel in the 3.55-3.65 GHz band. The Commission adopted procedures for Auction 105 in a public notice adopted earlier this year.

The FCC rules for band established a three-tiered, hierarchical framework to coordinate shared federal and non-federal uses. Under this framework, incumbent users have the highest priority, followed by Priority Access Licensees, and then General Authorized Access users

UTC was quoted in a recent article published by Bloomberg about the auction.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

FCC Seeks Quick Turnaround on Cable Pole-Attachments Petition

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) is seeking quick turnaround on a cable-industry proposal that would likely cause utility pole owners to pay more for pole-replacement costs in rural areas.

Comments on the NCTA proposal are due Aug. 19, with reply comments due on Sept. 3, according to an FCC notice.

In its proposal, filed July 16, NCTA wants the FCC to require that utility pole owners, in locations unserved by broadband, should at least pay half of the costs of replacing poles that are needed to deploy new broadband connectivity services. The cable industry also wants the agency to expedite pole-attachment complaints in unserved areas, and direct pole owners to replace poles within a specific time period.

UTC has not responded publicly to the cable industry request but will be seeking input from our members for formal comments with the agency.

The FCC historically has favored the cable and telecommunications industries in their pole-attachment requests, shifting the cost burden of upgrading and attaching new communications devices to pole owners and their customers.

For more information, please visit UTC’s pole-attachments resource page for reports, issue briefs, and much more.

Member News: WAPA Releases Report on Leasing ‘Dark’ Fiber to Customers

Western Area Power Administration, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity and Southwestern Power Administration, has published a report exploring the feasibility of leasing currently unlit fiber optic strands, also known as “dark” fiber, to the power marketing administrations’ customers or third parties.

In support of the Administration’s American Broadband Initiative, the Fiber Optics Feasibility Assessment: Western Area Power Administration and Southwestern Power Administration examines the risks and opportunities of providing broadband internet services using WAPA’s and SWPA’s existing transmission and fiber optics infrastructure.

“WAPA supports exploring the potential for expanded use of its unallocated fiber while remaining committed to protecting customer investments,” said Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel. “We will ensure that any fiber partnerships do not impact our mission of delivering power in a reliable, resilient, cost-based, and secure manner.”

With the publication of the report, WAPA will embark on a pilot project with three of its existing power customers in California and Colorado to examine potential fiber partnerships that facilitate the customers’ fiber needs and fit within WAPA’s statutory mission and authorities.

WAPA, a core UTC member, remains committed to ensuring that the beneficiary of fiber services is responsible for paying any related costs.

WAPA owns, operates, and maintains about 5,000 miles of overhead fiber optic ground wire on its transmission system to communicate with its electric equipment across eleven states. Some of the fiber is uncommitted, leaving some capacity unused.

The feasibility assessment stems from the American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report, released in February 2019, which detailed the Administration’s strategy to identify and remove barriers to broadband access and leverage public assets and resources to expand America’s broadband infrastructure capacity.

WAPA sought input from its customers during the development of the report and found that customers support WAPA’s current fiber partnership practice of making dark fiber available for electric utility use. Customers were also cautiously interested in other fiber uses, such as broadband internet service. Some of the potential benefits they identified included augmenting rural customer revenues, advancing WAPA’s network capabilities while improving the resilience of WAPA’s transmission system, and strengthening communication systems for rural emergency services and healthcare providers.

“In this dynamic energy frontier, WAPA must continuously evaluate how it can best support its customers now and in the future,” said Gabriel.

UTC supports utility broadband efforts through the Utilities Broadband Committee. Please contact us for more information.

UTC, Public Safety Groups Seek Repeal of ‘T-Band’ Auction in Pandemic Relief Bill

UTC joined a coalition of public safety and critical infrastructure organizations in urging U.S. Senate leaders to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC, the Commission) upcoming “T-Band” auction.

In a July 21 letter, the groups urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-MO) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to include the repeal in any forthcoming coronavirus response legislation.

“Amid the current public health emergency, emergency medical services and other public safety personnel are using the T-Band to meet the heightened need for services,” the groups said. “We urge Congress to protect this life-saving spectrum by repealing the T-Band auction mandate in COVID-19 response legislation.”

At issue is the FCC’s planned February 2021 auction of public-safety spectrum known as the “T-Band.” The Commission is required under a 2012 law to auction the airwaves, even though current members of the agency, including Chairman Ajit Pai, oppose moving forward. Indeed, last month the agency called for comments on its proposed auction plan (Industry Intelligence, July 20, 2020).

With the auction nearing in just a few short months, UTC and several public safety and critical infrastructure organizations are asking Congress to repeal the 2012 law. Electric utilities in particular have used the band during natural disasters to repair and restore services.

“For instance, utilities have used this band during scenes of emergencies where power lines are down and need to be shut off, as well as during mutual aid and power restoration efforts in the aftermath of a hurricane or other large scale disaster,” the groups said. “These operations will also be impacted as the FCC seeks comment on requiring a mandatory transition of these incumbent users.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team 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