May 26, 2020

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Time to Nominate New Committee Chairs!

A Note from UTC Chairman Greg Angst:

Dear UTC Members,

The terms of four UTC Committee/Division Chairs will expire on August 31, and it is time now to identify their successors. First, I would like to thank the outgoing Chairs for their remarkable service to UTC over the past three years:

  • Sheila Wells, Nashville Electric Service, UtiliSite Division Chair
  • Sheila Wells, Audit Committee Chair
  • Dewey Day, PG&E, Public Policy Division Chair
  • Matt Holthe, Nebraska Public Power District, Membership Division Chair

If you would like to nominate a candidate to succeed any of these Chairs, please send me an email note to my UTC email box: Greg.Angst@utc.org. Every UTC member is eligible to submit candidate recommendations. However, all candidates must be employed by UTC member utilities.

After receiving nominations, I will work with the UTC Executive Committee to identify one candidate for each position. Then, those candidates’ names will be presented to the UTC Board of Directors for approval at its August 31 meeting.

Thank you as always for your support of UTC.

Greg Angst

UTC Chairman of the Board of Directors

Hundreds Pack UTC Webinar Featuring Virginia’s IOUs Work on Broadband

Hundreds of participants attended UTC’s webinar last week focusing on how two Virginia investor-owned utilities—Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power—are working to close the digital divide in rural areas of the Commonwealth.

The webinar featured a deep dive into both utilities’ projects to provide middle-mile services to local partners in the Southwestern and Southeastern parts of Virginia. Without their assistance, these broadband projects would not be occurring, participants said.

A recording of the webinar is available here: https://youtu.be/2IoyrVSmroM [Editor’s Note: The audio at the beginning of the webinar is spotty for the first several minutes. It improves greatly throughout the event].

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) kicked off the event exhorting the crucial role electric utilities can play in bringing broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of the country.

“You can help build out that middle mile,” Rep. Griffith told the attendees.

Brad Hall, Vice President of External Affairs at Appalachian Power, teamed up with GigaBeam Networks President Michael Clemons to discuss their project in Grayson County, Virginia. Grayson County is one of the most rural in Virginia, severely lacking in broadband connectivity. Under the project just approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission, Appalachian Power will be providing middle-mile fiber services to GigaBeam, which will then be able to bring broadband to their customers in the area.

Dominion Energy Director of New Technology and Energy Conservation Nathan Frost reviewed his utility’s partnership with Prince George Electric Cooperative in Surry County, Virginia. Located in the southeastern corner of the Commonwealth, Surry County is also need dire need of broadband connectivity. Mr. Frost discussed the partnership with Lane Chambers, PGEC’s Engineering Project Manager.

While both projects are unique and different, the commonality between the two is the buy-in from local officials. Support from state and local officials, from Gov. Jim Northam down to local county officials has been widespread and critical to its success, both utilities said.

This support “has been the oxygen of this initiative,” Mr. Frost said.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

FCC Draft RDOF Rules ‘Mostly Positive’ for Utilities: UTC

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week released a draft order outlining the bidding rules and procedures for the first leg of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).

The FCC is planning on approving the draft rules at its June 9 open meeting.

Phase 1 of the RDOF program would allocate $16 billion to qualified bidders.

According to the FCC, the draft auction procedures try to strike a balance between building sustainable networks that will meet the needs of the future while maximizing the number of locations that receive service. The auction targets census blocks that current data shows are wholly unserved. Funds will be allocated through a multi-round reverse auction format similar to that used in the Connect America Fund Phase II auction.

[UTC is hosting a webinar on May 28 featuring a key FCC official to discuss the RDOF program. Free for UTC members!]

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction more than doubles the minimum speeds that providers must deliver to 25/3 Mbps. It also prioritizes bids offering to provide even faster speeds (up to a gigabit) and lower latency by giving those bids greater weight in the auction and awarding support to the bidder offering the best combination of speed and latency in each area once the aggregate price of all bids drops below the auction’s budget. These bidding procedures will enable providers to start planning for the start of the auction in October by determining the amount of support they will need to provide a specified level of service to a specified set of eligible areas.

UTC General Counsel and Vice President of Policy Brett Kilbourne said the auction rules are mostly positive for utilities, though there are concerns that the FCC opened the door to entities that will be unable to offer the same kinds of broadband programs as utilities.

In particular, Mr. Kilbourne noted that the draft excludes low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite companies from participating in the gig-performance tier of the auction and imposes a heavy burden on other types of entrants as well, including wireless internet service providers (WISPs) and DSL providers. UTC urged the Commission to exclude the LEO companies from the auction due to their historic inability to meet the high broadband speeds envisioned by the RDOF program (Industry Intelligence, April 6, 2020).

Unfortunately, the Commission opened the door to wireless internet service providers and others that have not been able to build networks that can meet these specifications, Mr. Kilbourne said. The FCC did set a high bar for these firms and also expresses skepticism that they can indeed offer gigabit speeds, but that the agency opened the door could be problematic, he said.

“Overall the draft auction rules appear positive for utilities seeking to participate,” he said. “We appreciate that the FCC removed satellite firms from the highest speed tier of the auction. We look forward to engaging with the Commission to further improve these rules in the near future to prevent funding from going to other technologies that can’t deliver gigabit speeds.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

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!

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 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

  • June 9: UtiliSite Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart at lockhart@utc.org
  • June 17 IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • June 16: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • June 18: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • June 18: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Rob Thormeyer
  • June 19: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart