July 30, 2018

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UTC Board Wraps Up In-Person Meeting with Hill, Agency Visits

The UTC Board of Directors just wrapped up a successful and jam-packed in-person meeting last week in Washington.

From meeting with Members of Congress and federal regulatory officials to hammering out forward-thinking visions and goals for the next few years, Board members made significant inroads on policy and organizational achievements.

“UTC members should be proud of their Board for putting such hard work and dedication into our Association,” said UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto. “We are focused on the right issues going forward and I have never been more confident in our direction. I am also pleased to report that we are generating great interest in our policy priorities in Congress and at the federal agencies who oversee our members. This was a tremendous week. My thanks to our Board Chairman Roger Bryant of Southern Company for his leadership, our Board members for their service, and our staff for their efforts in putting everything together.”

During the week, the UTC Board met with various Members of Congress and their staff, along with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Member Richard Glick. Board members discussed the need for FERC and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold formal meetings to discuss the growing interdependencies between the energy and telecommunications industries. Members also detailed UTC’s support for utility access to the 4.9 GHz and 406-420 MHz spectrum bands in partnership with existing incumbents, along with concerns about the FCC’s consideration of expanding access to the 6 GHz band given its wide use by critical infrastructure providers such as utilities.

Additionally, the Board of Directors approved a resolution on “Providing Utilities Broadband Spectrum While Protecting Incumbents in the 900 MHz Spectrum Band.” The resolution was approved by the Public Policy Division in late June.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC Suggests Modifications and Clarification of Draft Pole Attachment Rules

UTC is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) to make changes to its draft pole attachment rules that the Commission will likely address at its next open meeting on Thursday.

In a letter to the FCC, UTC suggested changes to the process for one-touch-make-ready (“OTMR”), opposed changes to the existing rules for the pole attachment process (including rules requiring utilities to provide detailed estimates and invoices for make ready costs, shorter timelines for make ready, and new self-help remedies that would allow third-party attachers to perform make ready in the electric space on the pole), requested more advance notice prior to overlashing, and opposed granting incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) regulated rates for pole attachments.

The FCC is scheduled to take up the pole-attachments order at its Aug. 2 open meeting (Industry Intelligence, July 16, 2018). The order, according to agency Chairman Ajit Pai, will address OMTR, state and local jurisdiction, among other issues.

With regard to the OTMR process, UTC in its letter argued that the Commission should provide more than just 15 days to process an application (including three business days for utilities to notify the new attachers and any existing attachers to participate in the survey), and it supported requests for clarification by utilities about the process for applications involving multiple categories of make ready, as well as multiple applications for access to the same poles by different attachers.

With regard to the FCC’s draft changes to the existing process for pole attachments, UTC argued that the self-help remedy for attachers to perform make ready when the deadlines are unmet should only apply for make ready for attachments in the communications space and should not extend to make ready for attachments above the communications space nor should it apply to pole replacements – both of which would affect electric infrastructure, thereby threatening safety and reliability.

Also, UTC opposed requiring utilities to provide detailed estimates and invoices for make ready costs in the communications space, which would represent an undue burden and is unnecessary because utilities simply don’t have access to information about those make ready costs nor are they available on a per-pole basis as the FCC would require them to be reported.

With regard to overlashing, UTC offered its support for requiring third-parties to provide advance notice, but requested more than 15 days advance notice. Furthermore, UTC sought clarification that the new rules for overlashing would not apply to strand-mounted equipment, which raises unique engineering and safety issues and is distinctly different from overlashing an existing attachment with another linear attachment.

With regard to rates for incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) attachments, UTC argued that the FCC should not shift the presumption in favor of entitling ILECs to regulated rates nor should the FCC automatically grant ILECs regulated rates. Instead, UTC argued that ILECs should bear the burden of proof, consistent with fundamental principles of contract law, to demonstrate that their attachments should be subject to the same rate as attachments by other telecommunications carriers, and that if the FCC does shift the presumption in favor of ILECs, the new rule should only apply to new pole attachment agreements going forward – and not apply retroactively to existing joint use agreements.

For more information, please contact the UTC Public Policy Team.

UTC Presses Key House Panel on Spectrum Policy, Joint FERC-FCC Meetings

Congress needs to direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) to consider the unique, critical characteristics of the energy and water industries as the Commission pursues its spectrum policies, UTC said last week.

In a Statement for the Record submitted for the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Communications and Technology’s July 25 oversight hearing of the FCC, UTC said the Commission has historically not recognized the critical needs of the utility sector as it relates to spectrum allocation.

“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) is responsible for allocating commercial spectrum,” UTC wrote. “Energy and water providers understand that spectrum is a finite resource, and the FCC has the task of allocating and expanding access to spectrum in ways that promote wireless deployment, but do not harm incumbent existing spectrum license holders. Given the criticality of energy and water providers to our nation’s wellbeing, spectrum policies implemented by the FCC should reflect this reality. Unfortunately, historically this has not been the case.”

Case in point: The 6 GHz spectrum band. In its statement, UTC noted the Commission has signaled it will likely issue a rulemaking process to explore expanding access the 6 GHz band. While UTC believes that a rulemaking proceeding is the appropriate way to address such an issue, it appears unlikely the 6 GHz band could be expanded without causing interference with the critical utility systems already in the band, UTC said.

“Allowing commercial wireless users into this band could threaten the reliability of incumbent systems, likely forcing many utilities in the band to relocate—at great cost—because they cannot tolerate interference,” UTC said.

UTC also urged the Subcommittee to support joint meetings between the FCC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). “Joint meetings between these agencies will help build understanding surrounding the criticality of electric utilities to our nation’s security, economy, and wellbeing,” UTC wrote. “The energy and telecommunications industries are becoming more reliant upon each other, as telecommunications services cannot function without electricity, the reliable delivery of which is aided by wireless technologies.”

Members of the UTC Board of Directors took these messages to lawmakers in person during its in-person meeting last week in Washington (see story, this issue). Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC Seeks Direction, Clarification from FCC on ‘Right to Repair’

Following up on a resolution passed at UTC’s May 2018 Telecom & Technology meeting, UTC earlier this month urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) to affirmatively declare that utilities should be able to repair and modify communications equipment at their discretion.

Although utilities own and operate their own private telecommunications networks, some manufacturers of the equipment used for these systems require utilities—or other license holders—to send problematic transmitters back to the manufacturer for repair and testing, rather than letting the utility perform this maintenance on their own in the field.

Because doing so is time-consuming and could impact the reliable operation of a utility’s network, UTC’s membership passed a resolution stating the Association’s position that the utility should be able to do this repair and testing work. Doing so improves reliability and saves time and money, UTC said.

In a Petition for Declaratory Order filed late last month, UTC took formal action on this resolution and asked the FCC to clarify its rules to allow utilities to do this important work without having to send equipment back to the manufacturer.

“The public interest would be served by clarifying that licensees must be allowed to conduct transmitter measurements (and by extension, make adjustments to transmitters) in the field by the responsible operator or under the supervision of the responsible operator of the station,” the petition said. “This has been the prevailing industry practice by licensees, and protects against interference to other operations.”

UTC will update its members as the FCC considers this request. Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Upcoming Events

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

  • Aug. 16: UTC Public Power Division; Contact Sharla Artz for more information
  • Aug. 21: UTC Webinar—How Utilities Can Enable Rural Broadband; Details coming soon!
  • Sept. 26-28: EUTC Annual Conference, Malmo, Sweden; Registration Open Now!

Regional Meetings! Click here for a list of the fall regional meetings!

CommitteeCorner

Committee Corner

New to UTC? Long-time member and want to get more involved? Consider joining one of UTC’s interactive and engaging committees!

In the coming weeks, Industry Intelligence will highlight one committee a month. We will also publish a list each week of all the UTC committees along with contact information if you are interested in joining.

Participation in one or more of UTC’s committees will give you situational awareness on activities in Washington and elsewhere that impact your job. You will also learn from your colleagues and other experts on the top issues and challenges utilities face as they build upon and expand their Information and Communications Technology (ICT) networks.

All UTC core members are eligible to join any committee! The list below includes just the names and contact info for each committee; visit the UTC Website for more information!