March 18, 2019

SPONSOR

UTCG_DIGITAL_SPONSOR_TEMPLATE_UTCG_V3

Register Now for June 17-21 T&T Annual Meeting!

Are you registered for UTC’s Annual Telecom & Technology conference yet?

If not, why not?

UTC’s Telecom & Technology conference brings together the utility and technology industries at a time when the industries are converging at a rapid rate.

This year’s event takes place from June 17-21 in centrally located Fort Worth, Texas. Registration and hotel information are available here: https://utctelecom.org/.

Our program is quickly coming together; we will have a general session on Wednesday, June 19, featuring CEOs and other executives from major trade associations to discuss the importance of utility communications networks to grid reliability, now and into the future.

We will be rolling out the rest of our agenda soon. It will feature numerous sessions, panels, discussions, and training opportunities on topics ranging from cybersecurity, pole attachments, broadband deployment, IT/OT, and much more. Watch this space for more information.

Register now to take advantage of our early discount rates!

We hope to see you this June in Fort Worth!

FCC Formally Adopts Proposed Rulemaking in 900 MHz Proceeding

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission), as expected, is seeking comments on a proposal to realign the 900 MHz band.

In a vote last week, the FCC approved a notice of proposed rulemaking to make a portion of the 900 MHz band available for broadband.

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.

In addition, the Commission is proposing to use geographic licensing for the broadband segment and seeks comment on the appropriate size of the geographic area for the license. The Commission appears to be leaning towards using counties as the size of the geographic area (Industry Intelligence, March 4, 2019).

UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto issued the following statement in response to the FCC vote. “Utility spectrum needs are diverse, dynamic, and access to interference-free spectrum is critical to the industry’s ability to provide safe and resilient energy and water services to their customers. UTC supports efforts to provide broadband spectrum access to utilities and other critical-infrastructure industries (CII). At the same time, UTC wants to ensure that access to broadband spectrum does not result in harmful interference to utility mission-critical voice and data narrowband private land-mobile radio systems.

“We are still reviewing the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) notice of proposed rulemaking on realigning the 900 MHz spectrum band. There are a few details that we will be analyzing as we prepare our formal comments; one in particular is ensuring that the proposal’s eligibility requirements do not prohibit utilities and other 900 MHz Business/Industrial/Land Transportation licensees from applying for a broadband license. As we conduct our review, we will work with our core utility members to ensure their needs and concerns are addressed.

“Given the diverse and important spectrum needs in the utility industry, we look forward to working with the Commission to develop balanced rules that promote access to broadband spectrum by utilities while protecting narrowband voice and data communications systems from harmful interference.”

Comments on the proposal are due 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. UTC will notify its members to begin the process of drafting comments. The UTC Board of Directors passed a resolution on the 900 MHz issue last summer, which will guide UTC’s advocacy in this proceeding.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Utilities Empower Rural Broadband, UTC Tells Senate Subcommittee

Electric utilities empower and enable rural broadband in numerous says, UTC told a key Senate subcommittee last week.

“Electric utilities of all sizes and ownership types, from large investor-owned utilities serving millions to publicly and consumer-owned utilities located in smaller towns and rural areas, are critical partners in bringing broadband to rural America,” UTC wrote.

UTC made these points in a statement for the record filed in conjunction with a rural broadband hearing held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet.

In the letter, UTC noted all the ways utilities are partnering in rolling out broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of the country. Some rural cooperative and public-power utilities are physically providing broadband to their customers, while other investor-owned utilities are working with broadband companies in other ways.

Additionally, nearly all electric utilities allow telecommunications providers to attach their devices to utility poles, enabling them to reach customers across the country, UTC said.

“Although UTC’s membership is diverse, our core utility members share the belief that access to affordable and reliable broadband is a key economic driver for our nation,” UTC wrote. “In fact, electric utilities enable broadband access in multiple ways, most notably by providing access to their infrastructure to telecommunications providers. Additionally, where not prohibited by state or local statute, a number of utilities are providing broadband services themselves in areas where private firms have decided not to deploy. Most of these locations are in rural areas.”

UTC also noted that the FCC’s rules on pole attachments have not resulted in expanded rural broadband, despite their stated intent. “Despite pronouncements that reducing regulatory requirements and fees will spur rural broadband development, the reality has proven otherwise,” UTC said. “Evidence suggests that lower pole-attachment rates have no bearing on the deployment of rural broadband.”

Rural broadband deployment appears to be one issue in which members of both parties can support. UTC has met with several congressional offices on this issue and will continue promoting the critical ways utilities empower broadband deployment.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Utilities May be Ready for Cyberattacks, But Analyst Wonders if Society Is

The electric power industry is far more aware and prepared for potential cyberattacks now than it has ever been, a top security analyst told a room of industry and government officials.

That doesn’t mean an attack will never happen, however, and how society and government responds will be the real test of the U.S.’s resilience, said Robert Lee, CEO and co-founder of Dragos told a Department of Energy (DOE) working group.

Speaking on a panel last week during DOE’s Electricity Advisory Committee, Mr. Lee praised the electric power sector on how far it has come in recent years to understand the cybersecurity risk.

“I have seen a major shift in our community,” he said.

Indeed, just a few years ago, a company like Dragos would likely not exist. Now, he said, Dragos “has never been more active.”

This means the industry is taking the risk seriously and doing what it can to mitigate against cyber and other kinds of attacks, he said. But this does not mean the sector is invulnerable, Mr. Lee and other panelists said.

What concerns Mr. Lee and others is the potential for overreaction from government and society if an attack on a utility is successful. “What concerns me isn’t the grid going down,” he said. It is the “amount of fear we are seeing around the threats” and how society will react.

“I’m concerned that a relatively short outage will result in a knee-jerk reaction” from government, the media, and the general public that will be overly punitive and not take into consideration what truly happened, he said.

The misunderstanding of these issues and their impacts could bring about severe changes in law and regulations, Mr. Lee said.

Mr. Lee also said he worries that smaller utilities, such as rural cooperatives and public-power entities, may not have the resources to hire firms like Dragos to perform security and threat assessments. To alleviate some of these concerns, he noted that last year, Dragos and DOE entered into a cooperative agreement to research and develop a collaborative threat detection and shared intelligence program called Neighborhood Keeper. The program is intended to develop novel methods to make threat analytics and data accessible to smaller infrastructure providers– such as co-ops and municipality providers serving our local communities–who often lack resources to defend against targeted threats.

Prior to the EAC meeting, Dragos presented at UTC’s Region 3 spring meeting on the changing industrial control system landscape.

UTC’s Security, Risk and Compliance Committee is putting together security sessions that will be held during our annual conference, including sessions on these topics. Please contact the SRCC Team with any questions.

Upcoming Events

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