June 15, 2020

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UTC Seeks Strong Oversight of New Federal Broadband Auction to Reduce Waste

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) approved bidding rules for the first phase of its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) that overall should benefit electric utilities that participate in the program.

In doing so, the Commission somewhat controversially permitted certain technologies and industries that have historically not been able to meet the program’s requirements.

The order, approved at the FCC’s June 9 meeting, permits low-earth orbiting satellite entities and those offering fixed wireless and DSL products to participate in the auction. UTC and other stakeholders had urged the agency to prevent those kinds of entities from being able to bid into the auction due to their historic inability to meet the RDOF performance requirements (Industry Intelligence, April 6, 2020).

In a statement distributed to national press outlets, UTC Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Brett Kilbourne noted its appreciation for the order and urged the Commission to provide strong oversight over the auction to ensure that federal money is not wasted on outdated or unreliable technologies.

“Electric utilities across the U.S. empower broadband deployment, especially as hundreds of rural electric cooperatives are poised to participate in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction to bring robust, affordable and reliable broadband services to unserved and underserved communities,” Mr. Kilbourne said. “The Utilities Technology Council looks forward to reviewing the Federal Communications Commission’s public notice and appreciates its decision today finalizing the bidding rules for the first phase of the RDOF auction. As we await the final text of the order, we hope the order will ensure that the RDOF funding be carefully awarded to entities deploying technologies that have historically proven to be able to provide reliable high-speed broadband. We must invest in future-proof broadband for America.

“Broadband is increasingly becoming an essential service. It is therefore critical that the FCC provide strong oversight mechanisms to ensure the federal funds being dispersed go to those entities that are able to meet the high standards under the order. While we understand broadband services can be provided in numerous ways, we hope the final order puts in place appropriate oversight and penalties to discourage bidders from defrauding the government and depriving consumers of the quality of services they promised to provide.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC Unveils New Pole-Attachments Web Portal

UTC has officially launched a new portal on our website dealing with pole-attachment issues. Please visit the site here: https://utc.org/utility-poles/.

We have added a new issue brief and two briefing papers on pole-attachment policies. We have also included a Resource Library with numerous articles, illustrations, filings, congressional testimony, and much more. And very soon we will be adding case studies and interviews.

We will be updating this portal continually, and please let us know if you have any ideas and suggestions.

FCC Commissioner Seeks to Build Greater Understanding on Spectrum, Building Standards with DOE

A member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) is seeking to establish a joint working group with the Department of Energy that would analyze building energy efficiency standards and spectrum issues.

In an early June letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Dan Brouillette, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly noted that recent energy and thermal efficiency standards developed by DOE has impacted wireless signals located near and within those buildings. These standards have increased so-called “Building Entry and Exit Loss” (BEL) of wireless signals, which impacts the propagation of spectrum.

Commissioner O’Rielly suggested that collaboration between the two agencies could benefit both consumers and the wireless industry.

“From the Commission’s standpoint, the need for spectrum efficiency is increasingly important as consumer demand for wireless mobility continues to grow. Properly understanding how changes in building requirements affect propagation characteristics of wireless signals is critically important for our mission,” he wrote. “Therefore, better understanding the Department’s efforts can allow the Commission to authorize and introduce increased wireless functionality in spectrum bands without causing harm to other services, including those of incumbent users. Higher BEL means that there is less risk of harmful interference from competing signals from inside and outside modern structures, which means there may be opportunities for more flexibility in certain wireless operations.”

An inter-agency working group between the two agencies could focus on how modern building technologies impact wireless propagation and exploring modifications to building codes to better promote wireless efficiencies, he wrote.

UTC has long urged more collaboration and understanding between the FCC, DOE, and energy focused agencies. Doing so could better inform the FCC as it sets spectrum and pole-attachment policies.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Calendar of Events

Webinars

Committee/Division calls

  • June 17 IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • June 18: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • June 18: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Rob Thormeyer
  • June 19: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • June 23: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • July 14: UtiliSite Committee Call–For more information, contact Bob Lockhart