May 20, 2019

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Electric, Water Associations Push 6 GHz Proceeding in Letter to FCC

Senior leadership representing nearly every single electric utility in the U.S. and thousands of water and wastewater systems urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) to carefully weigh the needs of critical-infrastructure industries (CII) in its proceeding into expanding access to the 6 GHz band to unlicensed use.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, leadership from five Washington-based trade associations pressed the agency to ensure that any methods to protect incumbent CII users in the 6 GHz band from interference is tried, tested, and proven to work before proceeding.

“Should the FCC proceed with this concept, at the very least the Commission must make sure the interference-mitigation measures have been tried, tested, and proven to work,” the organizations wrote. “The need to make more efficient use of our nation’s spectrum resources is critical but cannot be rushed at the expense of vital energy and water services that are essential to our economy and public health. It is imperative that the FCC ensure the mitigation measures are tested and proven before moving ahead.”

Signatories to the letter include American Public Power Association President and CEO Sue Kelly, American Water Works Association Executive Director, Government Affairs G. Tracy Meehan III, Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson, and UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto.

The organizations sent the letter in the wake of communications from Chairman Pai to Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) regarding the FCC’s proposal to expand access to the 6 GHz band to unlicensed use. Chairman Pai, in a letter responding to Sen. Kennedy’s concerns about the plan, appeared to suggest he is confident the proposed mitigation measures will protect incumbent CII from interference, despite skepticism from multiple organizations (Industry Intelligence, May 6, 2019).

In the electric and water trade associations’ letter, the signatories reiterated the kinds of mission-critical communications used in the 6 GHz band, noting that hundreds of utilities have licenses in the band. Electric utilities, in particular, use the band for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition and teleprotection, the leaders wrote.

“Often invisible or overlooked, these communications networks provide critical situational awareness, underpin safety functions, and enable crews to safely repair and restore services after storms,” the letter said. “Additionally, for electric utilities, these networks are essential for our members to meet and exceed the stringent electric reliability requirements enforced by the federal government. These networks also support the greater deployment of distributed energy resources such as solar or battery storage, smart meters, and other technologies to enable grid modernization.”

In addition to the letter, EEI, NRECA, and UTC submitted a separate statement for the record to the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Communications and Technology’s FCC oversight hearing last week. The statement included the letter as an attachment.

“This Subcommittee is uniquely suited for this discussion as it has jurisdiction over both FERC and the FCC,” EEI, NRECA, and UTC wrote. “Members of this Subcommittee should foster a strong and viable dialogue between both agencies as the energy and telecommunications industries are becoming more interdependent by the day. The pending 6 GHz proceeding is a prime example as the undersigned have considerable concern that our operations could be negatively impacted if the FCC proceeds as planned.”

The letter and the statement are the latest in advocacy efforts UTC is pursuing with allied associations regarding the FCC’s 6 GHz proposal. Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team for more information.

T&T Spotlight: Text of Resolutions for Consideration Available; Have YOU Designated Your Voting Rep for T&T Yet?

Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, we will highlight sessions at the June 17-21 Telecom & Technology conference in Fort Worth, TX. Registration information is here!

Attention UTC Core Utility Members!

Text of the resolutions for consideration at next month’s Telecom & Technology policy resolution forum in Fort Worth is now available.

For the second time, UTC is initiating a policy resolution process to strengthen our advocacy efforts in Washington. Our next set of resolutions will be voted on during the Membership Meeting on Thursday, June 20, in Fort Worth. Only UTC core member utilities are eligible to vote.

Under our process, UTC core utility members must designate 1 (one) person to cast your entity’s vote. Please be sure you have discussed this with your colleagues who are attending Telecom & Technology next month.

Any resolutions approved at the annual Telecom & Technology meeting will be considered official UTC policy and will inform the association as it advocates for its members in Washington and elsewhere.

Additionally, because the resolutions are not final, edits and amendments can still be made during the Membership Meeting.

UTC core voting members will vote on the following resolutions:

UTC’s resolution process requires that the resolutions must be posted online and made available to membership at least two weeks before the annual conference.

For more information, please contact the UTC Public Policy Team.

T&T Spotlight: Smart Systems for Smarter Communities Symposium

[Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, we will highlight sessions at the upcoming Telecom & Technology conference. Registration information is here!]

The Smart Systems for Smarter Communities Symposium, at UTC’s Telecom & Technology conference, is presented by the IT/OT Committee and sponsored by Black & Veatch. This symposium will explore how utilities can help shape, influence and create smarter communities.

The symposium features three smart-community use cases:

  • Connected Communities: How utilities’ existing infrastructure can enable smart communities
  • Decentralization: Empowering utilities’ role in microgrids and self-generation
  • Utility Data: How utilities can benefit from a data-driven smart community

Each of the three use cases will have a presentation that includes an overview of the topic, technology demonstrations, and a lively Q&A. The presentations will be offered twice each at a special area on the Expo Hall floor, starting on June 19.

The purpose of the symposium is to dive deeper into utility participation in smart communities. The content presented for each use case is meant to encourage discussion among utility and technology partner attendees: how they can together lead and serve smart communities well into the future. Utilities have much to offer to smart communities. And smart communities have much to offer to utilities.

All UTC members are invited to participate in Smart Systems for Smarter Communities – to help develop content for the three use cases, and to demonstrate hardware or software that can support any of those use cases.

If you are interested to participate in Smart Systems for Smarter Communities, please contact us via email or phone: +1.202.833.6811.

FERC Set to Discuss 5G, 6 GHz at Annual Reliability Conference

Utility communications networks, 5G, and the criticality of interference-free spectrum will be addressed at a high-profile Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC, the Commission) technical conference next month.

In an agenda for the June 27, 2019, commissioner-led technical conference released last week, FERC set aside an entire panel for the day-long conference to be focused on utility communications issues.

FERC holds a technical conference each year on electricity reliability issues. Technical conferences are typically led by commission staff on specific issues; however, the annual reliability workshop is always commissioner-led, bringing a higher level of importance and visibility to the event.

According to the agenda, the Commission will address 5G, the 6 GHz spectrum band, and much more.

The panel “will explore challenges and opportunities as a result of the changes in communications and potential impacts on the [Bulk Electric System],” the notice says. “Utilities’ communication requirements are increasing as a result of technology advances at both the bulk and distribution levels. Utilities’ wireless communication systems demand reliable and secure coverage in order to reach all areas of the utilities’ service territory. 5G communication is poised to allow utilities’ to increase wireless coverage, and allow for greater communication amongst connected devices and equipment. With the increased use of wireless technology in all aspects of our society, pressure is being put on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reallocate bands of the electromagnetic spectrum for new uses.”

UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto appreciated the addition of these issues to FERC’s plate.

“We applaud FERC for teeing these issues up for discussion,” Ms. Ditto said. “We are hopeful this discussion will bring greater awareness of how decisions made by the Federal Communications Commission impact the industries under FERC’s jurisdiction. This is an excellent opportunity for the kind of cross-agency dialogues that can only improve government decision making. FERC is providing the industry and its consumers a great service with this conference, and we look forward to the discussion.”

This is a significant development for UTC’s advocacy, as we have been urging the Commission to focus on these issues over the last few years. UTC has met multiple times with FERC commissioners and staff to raise the concerns we’ve had on FCC policies.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with questions.

FCC Staff Recommends Dialogue with FERC in Wake of Hurricane Michael

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) staff is recommending that the agency increase its coordination with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in order to better streamline the telecommunications and utility industries’ collective response to natural disasters and other events resulting in long-term electricity and telecommunications outages.

In a report released earlier this month, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau also said telecommunications companies should engage with state officials such as utility regulators and Emergency Operations Centers to improve coordination of restoration activity.

FCC staff released the report in the wake of the Commission’s ongoing investigation into the telecommunications industry’s challenges to restore services after Hurricane Michael last October. The agency has also sought comments on ways the telecommunications and utility industries can better coordinate before, during, and after natural disasters; UTC, the Edison Electric Institute, the National Electric Rural Cooperative Association (NRECA), and the GridWise Alliance filed joint comments calling for FERC/FCC meetings while also outlining the careful and sophisticated methods utilities restore service after natural disasters (Industry Intelligence, March 4, 2019).

In its report, FCC staff recommended dialogue with FERC on these issues going forward. It also urged the telecommunications sector to meet with state officials to better facilitate storm response.

“Backhaul outages loomed large as an impediment to communications recovery. Uncoordinated post-storm recovery efforts between and among communications, utility, and debris removal teams created unnecessary delays to a speedy return to service,” the FCC report said. “Customers who had communications service restored – only to lose it again almost immediately because of a fiber cut – provide a clear example of how better cross-sector coordination could have improved the restoration process.”

FCC staff therefore recommends that: “communications providers participate in training activities with state Emergency Operations Centers and within working groups of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners to improve coordination of restoration activities,” the report said, adding that the agency should also “increase coordination with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to identify ways for federal regulators to harmonize restoration practices across sectors.”

UTC is pleased the FCC acknowledged the importance of meeting with FERC, the states, and other agencies on storm restoration. It is unclear what kind of final action the FCC will take to address the report.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Upcoming Events

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

  • May 20: Conexon CEO-Led Fiber Broadband Workshop—Click here for more information
  • May 21: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • June 17-21, 2019: Telecom & Technology annual meeting
  • Face-to-Face Committee Meetings at T&T! All Meetings at the Fort Worth Convention Center
    • Telecom Committee —Room 201A, June 17, 2019; 8 a.m.-9 a.m.
    • IT/OT Committee—Room 201B, June 17, 2019; 8 a.m.-9 a.m.
    • Membership—Room 201C, June 17, 2019; 8 a.m.-9 a.m.
    • Public Policy Division—Room 201A, June 17, 2019; 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
    • UtiliSite—Room 201B, June 17, 2019; 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
    • Regional—Room 201C, June 17, 2019; 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
    • Utilities Broadband Committee—Room 201A, June 17, 2019; 11 a.m.-12 noon
    • Technical—Room 201B, June 17, 2019; 11 a.m.-12 noon
    • Security, Risk and Compliance—Room 201C; June 17, 2019; 11 a.m.-12 noon
    • Knowledge & Learning—Omni Hotel restaurant; June 18, 2019; 9 a.m.-10 a.m.