June 22, 2020

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A Letter from UTC Chairman of the Board Greg Angst Announcing Sheryl Riggs as President/CEO

Dear UTC Members,

I am incredibly proud of the UTC membership for continuing to provide resilient, reliable utility services under these difficult circumstances. Each and every day, I am humbled to serve you as Chair of the UTC Board.

As you know, the UTC Board has been on the search for our new President and CEO. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, our Board Search Committee paused our search in March. In the meantime, our Interim President and CEO Sheryl Riggs, who assumed this title in addition to her role as Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations in early January 2020, has continued to run the Association on a daily basis.

As the CEO search paused, the Board Search Committee took this time to reassess where the Association stood and where we felt we needed to go. The pandemic forced us to think more holistically about the future of UTC, where we are, and where we want to be.

Sheryl was integral to these discussions. Despite wearing two hats, Sheryl immersed herself in both roles. And most importantly, she kept UTC financially healthy during the overall economic downturn and ensured that our hard-working staff remained employed.

Over time it became clear that we already had our CEO in place. The staff rallied behind Sheryl as the team never missed a beat; our committees remain strong and engaged. Our meetings have transitioned to the digital world. Our advocacy team has grown and become stronger. And our membership team even added new core utility and associate members! Day after day, we became more convinced that Sheryl is the right person for this position.

After seeing improvement and progress in the work of the Association, the Board Search Committee formally nominated Sheryl as UTC’s permanent President and CEO. The UTC Board of Directors approved this recommendation during the June 17 Board meeting.

To that end, I am absolutely thrilled to introduce Sheryl Riggs as our new President and CEO, effective immediately. Sheryl’s mastery of financial issues kept UTC alive during the economic downturn. And her leadership also inspired the staff, which is clear in the incredible work they do for us.

You will be getting to know Sheryl more over the next several weeks and months. When we can gather in person, we will give her an appropriate welcome. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Sheryl Riggs as your new President and CEO!

Greg Angst

UTC – Chairman of the Board

Citing Failure to Protect Existing Users, AT&T Sues FCC Over 6 GHz Rules

AT&T earlier this month filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC, the Commission) April order permitting unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band.

The FCC’s order does not protect the incumbent users that utilize the band for mission-critical public safety functions, AT&T said in its filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“The licensed uses of the 6 GHz band will continue to increase with the introduction of fifth-generation (‘5G’) technologies and the need for network densification,” AT&T said. “The FCC’s order fails to adequately protect these essential services from interference from newly permitted unlicensed uses of the 6 GHz band.”

At issue is the FCC’s April 23 order permitting unlicensed users access to the critical 6 GHz band. Utilities have used the band for decades to perform vital functions underpinning the nation’s electric transmission and distribution systems (Industry Intelligence, June 1, 2020).

UTC is supportive of the AT&T filing and is determining its next steps now that a suit has been lodged.

If you would like to receive a copy of the litigation or have any questions, please contact the UTC Public Policy Team.

Senate Subcommittee Questions FCC Chairman on 6 GHz, Broadband Programs

The Senate Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government last week held an oversight hearing of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC, the Commission) Spectrum Auctions Program.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was the sole witnesses at the June 16 hearing, which the senators used to discuss an array of topics important to UTC members.

In light of the FCC’s upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) expressed frustration over the lack of consequences for companies that are submitting “false maps and information” to the FCC’s Universal Service Fund subsidy maps. Sen. Lankford explained that false information leads to real-life consequences. For instance, this information will help determine if a community is eligible for RDOF funding.

RDOF is a $20 billion opportunity to help broadband providers bring affordable and reliable broadband services to unserved communities throughout the U.S. (Industry Intelligence, March 9, 2020). Phase 1 of the auction is set for Oct. 29, 2020, and a final map of RDOF eligible locations is forthcoming.

In another exchange, Sen.  John Boozman (R-AR) and Chairman Pai discussed the FCC’s 6 GHz proceeding. Sen. Boozman asked the chairman of the FCC discussed the 6 GHz rollout with the Department of Energy (DOE) to ensure incumbent interference issues have been appropriately addressed, as well as if the FCC has engaged in testing to ensure that incumbents are protected.

In response, Chairman Pai claimed that the rule does provide adequate incumbent protections, and he indicated that FCC staff and “other stakeholders, including electric utilities, and others” are comparing notes and are doing some of that testing. Senators did not challenge Chairman Pai on either statement.

[Editor’s Note: AT&T filed suit against the FCC’s 6 GHz decision because it does not protect incumbent users. See related story.]

Another important topic discussed included the FCC’s recent actions regarding the C-band, where Subcommittee Chairman John Kennedy (R-LA) expressed frustration over the FCC’s $9.7 billion incentive program to motivate satellite operators to migrate customers out of the lower portion of the C-band two years earlier than mandated.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

FERC Seeks Comments on CIP Standards, NIST Cyber Framework

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC, the Commission) is seeking comment on whether its existing Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards are effectively mitigating against cybersecurity and data security risks, and detection of anomalies and events.

In an order approved at its June 18 open meeting, FERC said its staff recently completed of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework to determine if any gaps exist between the agency’s existing CIP standards and the NIST guidelines.

FERC adopted its CIP reliability standards in 2008, and has modified the standards numerous times over the last several years to address potential new hazards. Noting that the cyber threat continues evolving, agency staff undertook an analysis to gauge whether its standards adequately addressed certain topics within the NIST framework.

According to FERC staff, it found three areas of the NIST guidelines that may not be addressed in its CIP standards: cybersecurity risks pertaining to data security, detection of anomalies and events, and mitigation of cybersecurity events.

Additionally, commission staff questioned whether its standards are sufficient to protect against a coordinated cyberattack on the bulk electric system (BES).

To that end, FERC asks for comment as to whether the existing CIP standards are sufficient enough to address data security, anomalous events, and mitigation, along with a coordinated cyberattack on the BES.

“The Commission has questioned whether greater defense in depth is warranted to better protect the bulk electric system from a coordinated attack on multiple BES Cyber Assets,” FERC’s order said. “The risk of such a coordinated attack may be exacerbated by the recent shift from larger, centralized generation resources to smaller, more geographically distributed generation resources.”

Comments are due 60 days after the order is printed in the Federal Register.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Calendar of Events

Webinars

  • June 23: Deploying Networks for Smart Cities Applications and Smart Communities Technology
  • June 30: Power Trunk LMR Equipment Upgrades

Committee/Division calls

  • June 23: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • July 14: UtiliSite Committee Call–For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • July 14: Knowledge & Learning Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  •  July 15: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • July 16: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • July 16: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Rob Thormeyer
  • July 17: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart

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