[Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, we will highlight sessions at the upcoming Telecom & Technology conference. Registration information is here!]
Cybersecurity, utilities and 5G, grid modernization, spectrum access for wireless deployment, grid resilience, utilities’ rural broadband deployment, and the growing convergences between the energy and telecom sectors are among the several topics being discussed at the June 17-21 UTC annual Telecom and Technology conference in Fort Worth, TX.
Hundreds of utility executives, engineers, vendors, and other utility and technology officials will participate in the highly anticipated event. Confirmed speakers include Joao Torres, CEO of EDP Distribuição of Portugal, Malia Hodges, CIO of Oncor Electric Delivery (the conference’s host utility), Energy Storage Association CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman, Common Ground Alliance President and CEO Sarah Magruder Lyle, and North American Transmission Forum CEO Tom Galloway.
In addition, Shawn Rhodes, a motivational speaker, will speak during the June 19 morning general session. Drawing from his experience in the battlefield and the boardroom, Mr. Rhodes will provide advice, insight, and perspectives on how utilities can best prepare for the major technological and policy changes that could disrupt the industry.
The conference is being held at the Fort Worth Convention Center in downtown Fort Worth. A complete agenda and program information, along with registration and hotel details, is available here: www.utctelecom.org.
“The UTC Telecom & Technology Conference is the premier event focused on utilities’ information and communications technology needs to ensure highly reliable, safe, and affordable energy and water services now and into the future,” said UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto. “From the policy implications to the technical specifications to the business decisions surrounding these issues, the UTC conference will give attendees the tools to tackling these ICT opportunities and challenges head-on. We also provide numerous platforms throughout the conference to establish relationships with trusted ICT vendors and consultants. This is a must-attend event!”
At the center of the conference is a general session on Wednesday, June 20, featuring CEOs and senior leadership including Mr. Torres of EDP Distribuição of Portugal, Ms. Hodges of Oncor, Ms. Speakes-Backman of the Energy Storage Association, EPRI, the Smart Electric Power Alliance, Mr. Galloway of the North American Transmission Forum, and Ms. Lyle of the Common Ground Alliance. Panelists will discuss how critical utility communications networks are to the resilience, safety, reliability, and future of the grid.
In addition, the conference features eight educational tracks on the following topics:
UTC Vice President of Cybersecurity, Technology, and Research Bob Lockhart spoke earlier this month at a cybersecurity conference in Budapest focused on utilities from the Black Sea and Balkan regions.
Sponsored by the United States Energy Association (USEA) and U.S. Agency for International Development, the conference was presented by USAID’s Utility Cyber Security Initiative (UCSI) Working Group. The purpose of the conference was to “foster development of technical standards, utility management best practices, and the deployment of emerging grid technologies” to assist these utilities in the development of a robust cybersecurity defense.
The conference was formatted as a two-day meeting with the Balkan utilities, followed by a two-day meeting with the Black Sea utilities. Countries represented from the Balkans were Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Montenegro. From the Black Sea region, the countries represented were Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and six distribution utilities from Ukraine. The meeting with the Black Sea utilities was conducted in Russian, with in-room live translation.
Mr. Lockhart spoke to both audiences about security governance, risk prioritization, budgeting, security awareness, and supply chain risk management. The content for this talk was drawn from the UTC Security and Supply Chain Risk Management Survey, performed in 2016 and 2017 with UTC member utilities. Both audiences were attentive and asked questions that demonstrated their interest and awareness of the issues, openly acknowledging the challenges that they sometimes face in driving and managing change.
These utilities exist in an increasingly threatening environment. The objectives of the UCSI Working Group are to share best practices from U.S. and European utilities, to help the utilities prioritize their security needs and requirements, and to encourage the use of standards that can help improve their security posture. An additional benefit is to enable information sharing among the utilities in their respective regions.
UTC has been asked to participate in a follow-up meeting with both audiences during the third quarter of 2019.
The U.S. government’s ban preventing American companies from doing business with China’s Huawei Technologies is being delayed for 90 days in order to allow additional research on how the prohibition will impact users of Huawei devices.
In a notice last week, the Commerce Department will provide a three-month window for American companies and manufacturers who use Huawei equipment—such as smart phones—to make necessary adjustments to their own products in the wake of President Trump’s Executive Order barring U.S. companies from purchasing Huawei products.
Called a “temporary general license,” (TGL) the Commerce Department’s action will grant “operators time to make other arrangements and the Department space to determine the appropriate long-term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “In short, this license will allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks.”
The license is effective from May 20, 2019 through Aug. 19, 2019.
At issue is the White House’s May 15 order barring U.S. companies from purchasing equipment and devices from companies or entities “owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction of foreign adversaries” that are “increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology and services.”
The Executive Order does not name Huawei specifically, but the Commerce Department’s notice does.
The agency’s action authorizes certain activities necessary to the continued operations of existing networks and to support existing mobile services, including cybersecurity research critical to maintaining the integrity and reliability of existing and fully operational networks and equipment. The Department will evaluate whether to extend the temporary license TGL beyond 90 days, the agency said.
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) earlier this month launched a new House Task Force on Rural Broadband that the Congressman hopes will provide coordination and leadership to end the rural-digital divide. The Task Force will work to advance solutions to ensure all Americans have access to high-speed internet by 2025, according to a statement from Rep. Clyburn’s office.
Majority Whip Clyburn made the announcement on the heels of a bipartisan agreement with President Trump to develop a $2 trillion infrastructure bill. Majority Whip Clyburn and the President agreed on the need to include significant funding for rural broadband in the package, the Majority Whip’s office said.
“High-speed internet is an essential service in America today—yet too many of our fellow citizens in rural communities are being left behind. I have heard numerous stories of families traveling many miles to places where their children can access the internet to do their homework,” said Majority Whip. Clyburn. “It’s unacceptable in 2019 that many rural communities have limited to no access to the internet. If rural America is to thrive in the 21st century information economy, it must have affordable and accessible internet service to every community.”
More than $60 billion in public resources have been invested to bring broadband to rural America; however, the FCC reports 25 million rural Americans are still without high-speed internet access, Majority Whip Clyburn said, adding that high-speed internet is a modern-day necessity and every American should have the ability to access affordable high-speed internet.
The Task Force will consult with key stakeholders, including rural advocates, market participants, local governments, and Administration officials to develop strategies to eliminate digital deserts and ensure rural Americans can thrive in the 21st century information economy. Top priorities include:
Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.
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