March 2, 2020

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New Legislation Calls for Greater Electric, Telecom Coordination During Disasters

House lawmakers last month introduced legislation compelling federal agencies to develop best practices for coordination between electric utilities and telecommunications companies before, during, and after man-made and natural disasters.

On Feb. 18, 2020, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chairman of theHouse Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), a member of the Communications and Technology (C&T) Subcommittee, introduced H.R. 5926, the RESILIENT Networks Act.

Among other provisions, the legislation compels the FCC, in consultation with the DOE and the Department of Homeland Security, to issue best practices for coordination between communication providers and utilities, as well as establishes a process whereby utilities and communication service providers share information to prioritize reenergizing the most critical components of a communications network. Further, providers of advanced communications will be required to take reasonable measures to integrate backup power into their networks to be used during an emergency or pre-planned power downs.

The bill also requires telecommunication companies to establish roaming and peering agreements and mutual-aid arrangements that can take effect during times of emergency. It also calls for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission), in consultation with the Department of Energy (DOE), to establish a “Coordinated Response Master Directory” to facilitate communication between public safety answering points, utilities, and communication providers.

Finally of note, H.R. 5926 requires the FCC to issue a report to Congress on the effectiveness and feasibility of expanding one-call notification systems to include advanced communications services, such as fiber. The FCC must also study and address the challenges and advantages of 5G wireless networks in times of emergency, while the Comptroller General will be required to audit the FCC’s response to the 2017 Hurricane Season in Puerto Rico.

During a Feb. 27 House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing on the bill, Allen Bell of Georgia Power highlighted the ongoing efforts whereby utilities and communication providers are already working together to improve communications before and during an emergency or pre-planned power downs.

He discussed his work on the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee’s Disaster Response and Recovery working group, which is expected to release its report in March. Mr. Bell also stressed the need for coordination and information sharing to be driven through state and county Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs), by explaining that “EOCs [are] more valuable than attempting to manage a database of contacts from Washington and will reduce administrative burdens and prevent confusion during events.” Further, he highlighted the establishment of the “Cross Sector Resiliency Forum,” as well as expressed concerns about applying the one-call notification system to fiber lines.

The next step for the legislation would be for the Subcommittee to vote on H.R. 5926 after any edits and changes have been taken into consideration.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Member News

Dominion Teams Up with Rural Co-op to Provide Broadband Service

Thousands of residents in rural parts of Surry County could receive access to high-speed internet under an agreement signed by Dominion Energy Virginia and Prince George Electric Cooperative (PGEC).

The partnership marks the first time an investor-owned utility has joined with a cooperative to expand broadband access in the Commonwealth, Dominion said. The agreement would extend access to around 4,500 Dominion Energy customers and 2,200 PGEC customers in Surry County currently not offered broadband services.

“Dominion Energy is committed to the communities in which we serve and live and embraces the opportunity with PGEC to expand access to broadband in rural communities,” said Ed Baine, senior vice president of power delivery for Dominion Energy Virginia. “Access will support economic development and social equity while simultaneously promoting numerous public benefits and educational opportunities for citizens of the Commonwealth.”

As a regulated electric service provider, Dominion Energy’s duty to provide electricity to all within its service territory puts it in a unique position to bridge the current broadband gap. The company said it is installing fiber in rural areas as it moves forward with efforts to transform Virginia’s energy grid. By utilizing fiber capacity for operational needs and broadband access, Dominion Energy can reduce broadband deployment costs for internet service providers.

In this case, Dominion Energy agrees to serve as the “middle mile” provider by allowing RURALBAND, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PGEC, to lease fiber and provide last-mile Fiber-to-the-Home service. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) details how the parties would work together on the project, which would be filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) later this year for regulatory approval.

The MOU is the result of a request for information by Dominion Energy Virginia in 2019. This is the first agreement created through the Grid Transformation & Security Act of 2018 and legislation patroned by Del. Israel O’Quinn in 2019. It will require around $16-$18 million in investment provided by the three parties, as well as federal and state grants.

Relatedly, American Electric Power subsidiary Appalachian Power is awaiting approval from the SCC on its proposed pilot-program to bring broadband services to Grayson County, VA.

For more information about Dominion’s pilot program visit: http://www.dominionenergy.com/ruralbroadband.

Looking to Nominate a Colleague for a T&T Award? Deadline is March 13!

The UTC Telecom and Technology Annual Conference is just a few months away—have you nominated anyone for our annual awards?

As you get ready to join us in Providence, R.I., for our May 18-21 event, don’t forget to nominate one of your colleagues for one of the many awards handed out each year. The deadline for nominations is March 13—only a few weeks away!

Information about each award is below, and for more information about the conference itself, visit our webpage at www.utctelecom.org.

UTC APEX AWARD

The UTC APEX Award recognizes utilities that have completed compelling telecommunication projects; whether in emergencies or in steady-state, utility communications technology saves lives, protects the property, and provide opportunities for communities to enhance economic prosperity.

Criteria

The UTC APEX Award is bestowed upon one utility company that provides electric, gas, or water services. The nominee must have implemented innovative projects, taken actions, or initiated procedures that leverage communications technologies or information systems, resulting in demonstrated benefits and positive impact on the communities they serve.

Nominations may be submitted on recommendations of peers, partners, and witnesses to the work of the utility. However, an authorized representative of the utility must accept the nomination before being reviewed by the selection committee.

Submit nomination – click here

UTC IMPACT AWARDS

The IMPACT Awards will honor the UTC Associate Member Organizations making a great impact on our industry through an innovative and proven solution. Members can choose one of three categories areas: Hardware, Software or Service. There will be three Impact Awards given.

The evaluation criteria will ensure that all UTC Associate Member organizations, regardless of size, type, or offering can clearly communicate, affirm, and support their nomination. These evaluation criteria were established to be relevant, comprehensive, well-aligned with the ever-evolving definition of “impact,” transparent for nominees AND clearly defined for our voting bodies.

Criteria

While difficult to define precise, objective metrics that unambiguously determine how companies and concepts rank for each evaluation criteria, we have developed a set of ranking assessments based on four key criteria:

AVAILABILITY: This is an innovation that is already in the marketplace, addressing a real need and/or solving a problem today.

EFFICIENCY IMPROVEMENTS: This technology innovation is meeting a need while improving outcomes or reducing risks to the customer and/or the utility. It may save time or money, lower cost improves security, or even makes money for a utility.

SUSTAINABILITY: The technology innovation supports sustainability, social responsibility, or green initiatives – an innovation that not only demonstrated commercial success but also considers broader implications.

IMPACT: Immediate and longer-term impact that the innovation has on the utility industry or/and society as a whole.

ELIGIBILITY: Submitted technology must be from a UTC Associate Member in good standing, serving the utility industry, any size, any geographic location. All submissions by vendors must be further supported by utility companies comprised of UTC members and/or non-members. (Meaning the utility using the technology does NOT have to be a UTC member, but the vendor must be).

Submit nomination – click here

EMERGING LEADERS AWARDS

New for 2020, UTC will recognize Emerging Leaders across all the UTC Regions. These “Rising Stars” are individuals within UTC member utilities who are dedicated to the critical work of telecommunication infrastructure, IT/OT, security, policy, etc. Do you know someone at your utility who should be recognized? Nominate them today and join us in Providence to celebrate these up-and-coming utility employees.

Submit nomination – click here

UTC CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls

Committee/Division calls

  • March 17: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • March 18: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • March 19: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Rob Thormeyer
  • March 19: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • March 20: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart