June 10, 2019

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T&T Spotlight: UPDATE! Resolution Added Acknowledging Critical Relationship Between Canadian-US Utilities

[Editor’s Note: Over the next two weeks, we will highlight sessions at the June 17-21 Telecom & Technology conference in Fort Worth, TX. Registration information is here!]

Have you designated your voting representative for next month’s Telecom & Technology policy resolution forum in Fort Worth?

For the second time, UTC is initiating a policy resolution process to strengthen our advocacy efforts in Washington. Our next set of resolutions will be voted on during the Membership Meeting on Thursday, June 20, in Fort Worth. Only UTC core member utilities are eligible to vote.

Under our process, UTC core utility members must designate 1 (one) person to cast your entity’s vote. Please be sure you have discussed this with your colleagues who are attending Telecom & Technology next month.

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

Additionally, because the resolutions are not final, edits and amendments can still be made.

UTC core voting members will vote on the following issues:

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

Two FCC Commissioners Support Unproven Scheme to Protect CII in 6 GHz Band

Despite significant concern raised by utilities and other critical infrastructure industries (CII) about the proposed methodology for protecting mission-critical communications within the 6 GHz band from interference, at least two Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) are convinced that the untested, theoretical protection measures will work as planned.

In separate remarks last week, FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Michael O’Rielly both indicated they believe the proposed “Automated Frequency Coordination” mechanism to protect utilities and others from interference in the 6 GHz band is sufficient.

“[T]he FCC fully recognizes that incumbents must be protected,” Commissioner O’Rielly said in his remarks at the Wi-Fi Alliance Annual Member Meeting last week. “At the same time, any such protections must be reasonable. We no longer have the luxury of over-protecting incumbents via technical rules, enormous guard bands, or super-sized protection zones. Every megahertz must be used as efficiently as possible.”

At the same event, Commissioner Rosenworcel, according to media reports, also suggested the AFC is appropriate, even though it remains untested. Commissioner Rosenworcel’s remarks were not made available.

At issue is the FCC’s controversial proceeding to open the 6 GHz spectrum band to unlicensed use. The 6 GHz band is home to hundreds of mission-critical communications systems used by energy and water utilities. In May, five energy and water trade associations—including UTC—sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urging him protect CII communications in the band and ensure that any interference-mitigation measures are trusted, tried and tested before proceeding (Industry Intelligence, May 20, 2019).

Additionally, numerous members of Congress have weighed in as well, urging the FCC to ensure the protections for incumbents actually work.

Despite these concerns, Commissioner O’Rielly, for one, believes the AFC as proposed will reduce interference issues. Also, while indoor unlicensed operations pose as big a threat—if not more—as outdoor operations, Commissioner O’Rielly believes that imposing an AFC system on indoor use is too costly.

“While this may prove to be one of the more contentious issues in this proceeding, I see it as entirely appropriate,” said Commissioner O’Rielly. “Incumbents certainly have some concerns about potentially harmful interference from devices that are not connected to the AFC, especially if the building does not attenuate the signal or if devices make their way outside. However, an AFC will increase costs for those using 6 GHz to operate, for example, their in-home wireless router. And, that’s true even if there is competition among AFC providers. Further, having the same indoor technical and access rules throughout the 6 GHz band should expedite the use of the spectrum, facilitate 160-megahertz channel sizes, and accelerate bringing equipment to market. All stakeholders need to be willing to work together to find a flexible and deregulatory indoor approach.”

UTC is continuing to engage with members of Congress and FCC staff as the 6 GHz proceeding continues at the agency. We recently met with all five FCC commissioner offices and will remain persistent on the Hill and elsewhere.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC Files Comments in 900 MHz Proceeding

UTC filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) on the agency’s proposal to realign the 900 MHz spectrum band for broadband use.

The comments were filed after UTC Public Policy Staff held several conference calls with members to discuss the proposed rule and how UTC should respond to elements of the proposal not considered in a resolution the UTC Board passed in 2018.

At issue is the FCC’s March proposal to realign a portion of the 900 MHz band for broadband use. Specifically, the FCC proposes a 3×3 MHz broadband segment and reserves the remainder of the 900 MHz band for continued narrowband operations. The broadband segment would be located between 897.5-900.5 MHz/936.5-939.5 MHz, leaving two separate narrowband segments–-a 1.5×1.5 MHz (896-897.5/935-936.5 MHz) below the broadband segment and a .5x.5 MHz segment (900.5-901/939.5-940 MHz) above the broadband segment.

Regarding eligibility, the Commission is proposing to limit broadband eligibility to specialized mobile radio (SMR) licensees but asked for comment on whether this could be expanded to include Business/Industrial/Land Transportation entities. This was an item UTC specifically asked about in meetings with FCC staff prior to the Commission’s vote (Industry Intelligence, March 18, 2019).

In its comments, UTC adhered to the 2018 resolution which denote UTC’s support for promoting utility access to broadband, given their growing communications needs. The comments also stress the need to protect narrowband incumbents in the band from interference as well. The comments reflect the 2018 resolution wherever possible. Additionally, because the proposed rule sought comment on items not included in the resolution, UTC only commented on the items where consensus was reached.

Numerous parties, including several utilities, filed their own comments in the proceeding. Click here to review the comments filed.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Bipartisan Senate Duo Re-introduces Small-Cell Deployment Act

Controversial legislation designed to expedite the deployment of small-cellular devices was reintroduced early last week.

The legislation, called the Streamlining the Rapid Evolution And Modernization of Leading-edge Infrastructure Necessary to Enhance Small Cell Deployment Act or STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, is sponsored by U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Sens. Thune and Schatz both serve on the Senate Commerce Committee; Sen. Thune is a former chair of the committee and currently serves as chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet.

The Senators first introduced the STREAMLINE Act in 2018; it was eventually shelved after not getting out of the Commerce Committee due to opposition from municipalities, some states, and electric utilities, including several UTC members.

In addition, the Federal Communications Commission in September 2018 issued rules similar to the policies envisioned under the bill. Those rules are being challenged in court (Industry Intelligence, Oct. 1, 2018).

According to the Senators, the STREAMLINE Act has the following key provisions:

  • Reasonable process and timeframe guidelines specific to small cell applications for state and local consideration:
  • Permits must be approved or denied on publicly available criteria that are reasonable, objective, and non-discriminatory.
  • Small cell applications may be denied or regulated for objective and reasonable structural engineering standards, safety requirements or aesthetic or concealment requirements.
  • Applications must be acted on no later than 60 days for requests to collocate equipment and 90 days for other requests.
  • Flexibility and additional time is allowed for small municipalities (fewer than 50,000 residents).
  • Empowers the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to grant flexibility by issuing a one-time 30-day waiver of the timeframes required for action upon a request by a state or local government.
  • Requirements for reasonable state and local fees for processing applications:
  • Fees must be publicly disclosed, competitively neutral, technology neutral, nondiscriminatory and based on actual and direct costs (including, for example, costs for maintenance and inspections).

UTC is still reviewing the legislation. Many of our members opposed the 2018 version, and several entities have already expressed concern with this bill as well.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Upcoming Events

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

  • June 17-21, 2019: Telecom & Technology annual meeting
  • Face-to-Face Committee Meetings at T&T! All Meetings at the Fort Worth Convention Center
    • Telecom Committee —Room 201A, June 17, 2019; 8 a.m.-9 a.m.
    • IT/OT Committee—Room 201B, June 17, 2019; 8 a.m.-9 a.m.
    • Membership—Room 201C, June 17, 2019; 8 a.m.-9 a.m.
    • Public Policy Division—Room 201A, June 17, 2019; 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
    • UtiliSite—Room 201B, June 17, 2019; 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
    • Regional—Room 201C, June 17, 2019; 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
    • Utilities Broadband Committee—Room 201A, June 17, 2019; 11 a.m.-12 noon
    • Technical—Room 201B, June 17, 2019; 11 a.m.-12 noon
    • Security, Risk and Compliance—Room 201C; June 17, 2019; 11 a.m.-12 noon
    • Knowledge & Learning—Omni Hotel restaurant; June 18, 2019; 9 a.m.-10 a.m.