May 18, 2020

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Annual T&T Event to Go All Virtual!

Dear UTC Members, Partners, and Stakeholders,

On behalf of the Utilities Technology Council, we want to thank you for your critical and long-lasting support of UTC. Everything we do is centered around providing our members, partners, and stakeholders with the data, content, and information you need to perform your vital jobs. Now more than ever, your work is an essential lifeline for the country and indeed the world.

UTC is extremely excited to announce that we will hold UTC Telecom & Technology 2020 as a virtual conference and expo. We will hold the virtual annual conference the week of August 31 – September 4, 2020.  We are taking this step as a way to ensure that as many of our members and attendees as possible can participate in our conference.

Keeping the UTC community informed is our top priority, and we understand there will be a lot of questions following this announcement. UTC is currently composing a FAQ document to provide as many details as possible.  We appreciate your patience as we move forward.  For questions and concerns, please contact meetings@utc.org.

UTC thanks all of our members, technology partners, and stakeholders who make our work possible. We are also especially grateful for the sacrifices many of you are making to keep powering our lives.

We look forward to virtually seeing everyone in August during the conference and expo.

More information will be available at the UTC and UTC Telecom & Technology websites soon!

UTC Urges Senate Panel to Consider the Ways Utilities Enable Broadband Deployment

Electric utilities are key partners in deploying broadband services across the U.S. and members of Congress should consider new and innovative programs that encourage utility broadband deployment, UTC told a key Senate panel last week.

In a statement for the record submitted last week before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, UTC noted that the current coronavirus pandemic has laid bare critical need for broadband services. Unfortunately, too many Americans do not have access to high-quality broadband services, UTC said.

Electric utilities can play a big role in fixing this problem, UTC said.

“Importantly, utilities are providing broadband services to areas where other communications service providers would not serve and they are offering gigabit speeds at prices that are often less than $100 a month,” UTC said. “The investments that utilities are making and have made in deploying broadband to unserved areas are making a big difference in these communities particularly during COVID-19, as distance learning and working from home have become increasingly prevalent. Given what utilities have accomplished with broadband already, an increasing number of both federal and state policymakers view electric utilities as a natural fit to further engage in broadband deployment efforts.”

UTC highlighted the importance of broadband funding opportunities like the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC, the Commission) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), a $20.4 billion program to fund new broadband services in unserved areas. UTC noted that electric utilities are in a strong position to secure RDOF funding because of their ability to meet the program’s high standards for speed and connectivity.

However, UTC encouraged the committee members to ensure that the RDOF plan only awards money to the entities that can deliver quality broadband services. UTC also noted that some of the RDOF money could be made available sooner to qualified entities.

“While a significant number of electric utilities are working diligently to participate in this once-in-a-generation funding opportunity, as many utilities plan to invest funds from RDOF to offer fiber-to-the-home services at affordable prices, some challenges remain,” UTC said. “For instance, RDOF rules should ensure that only proven broadband technologies can bid for these critical dollars.”

In addition, UTC highlighted another, more traditional way that all utilities empower broadband deployment—through pole-attachment policies. “Utility poles are essential to delivering reliable and affordable electricity to everyone in the country,” UTC said. “Many, if not all, of these poles carry cable, broadband, and other services.”

Although pole-attachment policies are meant to reduce hurdles to broadband expansion, the “evidence suggests that reducing pole-attachment rates has no bearing on the deployment of rural broadband,” UTC said. “Indeed, state governmental agencies have found no conclusive evidence linking lower pole fees to rural broadband expansion.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

FCC Approves 900 MHz Realignment Proposal

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) last week approved its proposal to realign portions of the 900 MHz spectrum band for broadband use.

In its order, the FCC made six megahertz available for broadband licenses in the 900 MHz band on a county-by-county basis while reserving the remaining four megahertz of spectrum for continued narrowband operations.

The order was made available late on May 14. UTC is still reviewing the decision.

According to a press release, the Commission said its action realigned the band and establish a transition mechanism based primarily on negotiations between prospective broadband licensees and existing narrowband incumbent licensees.

The item also establishes rules to prevent broadband applicants from receiving windfalls and includes application requirements and operating and technical rules applicable to the new 900 MHz broadband licenses, the FCC said.

In addition, the Commission also announces a partial lifting of the 900 MHz application freeze to permit existing licensees to file applications to relocate their narrowband operations as part of a transition plan.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC Spectrum Services: We Have Resources for 900 MHz Reconfiguration

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission)’s final approval of its plan to realign the 900 MHz band for broadband purposes means entities that are either incumbents in the band or new customers seeking to deploy broadband networks will need to take a number of administrative steps to comply with the new rules.

UTC’s Spectrum Services is here to assist you in this process.

In a vote last week, the FCC enacted new rules to permit the construction of private broadband networks in the middle of the private land-mobile radio (PLMR) 900 MHz band (see related coverage). The broadband networks will be deployed locally and regionally. Entities that can accumulate enough channels in the middle of the band can implement a broadband network for internal and commercial services. The PLMR incumbents will be moved to the outside portions of the band.

Regardless of whether your entity seeks to retain its narrowband PLMR network, or build your own broadband network, or use someone else’s, FCC applications and frequency coordination will be required to shuffle the channels in the band among the various parties

This is where UTC Spectrum Services fits in. UTC Spectrum Services is an FCC certified frequency advisory committee that has been providing frequency coordination services in the 900 MHz band for over a decade.

In this time of transition for the 900 MHz band, UTC Spectrum Services provides its members and clients with the expertise needed to facilitate these changes. We have a detailed understanding of the nuances of licensing systems in this band. When approached for possible participation in the network, swapping channels for participation, we will provide services that protect your resources while leveraging new opportunities.

We hope you consider UTC Spectrum Services for your 900 MHz coordination, licensing and engineering needs. Discounts for large systems and projects are available.

Contact us with any questions!

Murkowski, Risch Introduce Energy Infrastructure Protection Act

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and James Risch, R-Idaho, last week introduced legislation they say will a new bill, the Energy Infrastructure Protection Act, to boost protections for critical electric infrastructure.

The Energy Infrastructure and Protection Act update provisions in the Federal Power Act and restrict federal disclosures of certain sensitive energy information.

“Protecting our nation’s electric infrastructure is a matter of national security,” Murkowski said. “Our bill equips the federal government with additional tools to safeguard the utility industry’s sensitive information. It also takes important steps to ensure that information critical to utility operations is not unintentionally exposed, as that could surrender America’s energy security to foreign adversaries.”

“It’s crucial that the federal government and electric industry work in tandem to defend our critical electric infrastructure,” Risch said. “The Energy Infrastructure Protection Act includes measures that will enable the federal government to protect utilities’ sensitive information from disclosures that could compromise our national security. I thank Chairman Murkowski for her shared leadership on this legislation, and I look forward to moving it through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.”

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) currently protect information received from utilities. The Energy Infrastructure Protection Act enhances those protections through provisions that:

  • Direct DOE and FERC to improve methods to protect critical energy information;
  • Grant explicit authority to DOE and FERC to help energy companies improve security;
  • Allow federal, state, and local authorities to request that their own critical energy information be protected under special designation by DOE or FERC.

Both Sens. Murkowski and Risch have taken leadership roles in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider the needs of electric utilities and other critical infrastructure industries in its 6 GHz proceeding.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Calendar of Events

  • RESCHEDULED & VIRTUAL! Aug. 31-Sept. 4, 2020: Telecom & Technology Annual Meeting, Providence, RI
  • RESCHEDULED! Oct. 12-14: Region 6 Meeting, Double Tree by Hilton Kansas City-Overland Park
  • RESCHEDULED! Aug. 4-6: Broadband Workshop, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Charlotte

Webinars

  • May 19: Nokia Network Services Platform for Private Networks
  • May 20: How Virginia’s IOUs are Solving the Digital Divide
  • May 28: The FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I Auction: $16B for Rural Broadband
  • June 3: FCC Form 601 Licensing Summary
  • June 9: Training–(PSE) Broadband Deployment Case Study
  • June 17: Spectrum Opportunities in the Part 90 1.4 GHz band

Committee/Division calls

  • May 19: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • NO MEETING IN MAY: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • May 21: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • May 21: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Rob Thormeyer
  • June 9: UtiliSite Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart at lockhart@utc.org
  • June 19: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart