May 4, 2020

Sponsor

UTC Analyzes Next Steps as FCC Releases Final 6 GHz Rule

UTC is continuing to review its options now that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) has finalized its order allowing unlicensed users access to the 6 GHz spectrum band, despite evidence demonstrating that doing so will interfere with mission-critical communications systems operated by utilities, first responders, and public safety entities.

The FCC last month approved its controversial order permitting unlicensed use across the 6 GHz band (Industry Intelligence, April 27, 2020).

UTC has released a summary of the final rule.

According to UTC, the final rule approved by the FCC is largely the same as the draft it circulated earlier in April. However the agency did make some modifications to the multistakeholder board as well as elements of its additional rulemaking on mobile standard-power operations and higher-power standard power operations.

The FCC proposed the multistakeholder board as a forum to study technical and operational issues—including interference detection and mitigation—as new unlicensed entrants infiltrate the band. As proposed, the group was limited to discussing standard-power operation issues. In the final rule, the FCC added low-power indoor operations to the group’s scope as well, a fairly important change, UTC noted.

Additionally, the FCC encouraged—but did not require—that the stakeholder board be a new entity and not an offshoot of an existing group (the WiFi Alliance or the Wireless Innovation Forum, for example). Also, the FCC again encouraged, but again did not require, that the panel include representation from all stakeholders, including incumbent users.

[UTC is standing up a working group to serve as a resource for members and UTC as it engages with this FCC-required multistakeholder board (see related story).]

Despite numerous requests by incumbent 6 GHz users, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) will only serve as an observer with no formal oversight of the multistakeholder panel.

In terms of next steps, UTC is still discussing with its members and allied stakeholders on potential litigation and continued advocacy in Congress and elsewhere, UTC Senior Vice President of Government and External Affairs Sharla Artz said.

“UTC will continue to provide the platform for our members, industry and other cross-sector incumbents to collaborate with each other to develop our next steps,” Ms. Artz said. “The FCC’s rule is problematic on numerous fronts and we are encouraged by the level of interest from our members and others on our path forward. As we have throughout this process, we will closely coordinate and communicate any additional activities and advocacy opportunities.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

New UTC Working Group to Serve as Liaison to 6 GHz Multi-Sector Working Group

UTC is setting up a new 6 GHz working group to serve as a resource for members and provide input into an industry-led, multi-stakeholder working group that may be created to implement many of the details related to automated frequency control (AFC), including testing and protocols, as well as procedures and processes for interference resolution, as provided within the FCC’s late April order authorizing unlicensed operations in the heavily used 6 GHz spectrum band (see related story).

UTC’s new 6 GHz Working Group will fall under UTC’s Telecom Committee. The Working Group will support UTC’s participation in the multi-stakeholder established in the FCC’s 6 GHz final rule.

While housed under the UTC Telecom Committee, the 6 GHz Working Group will coordinate with the Public Policy Division as needed.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

‘Unreliable Data’ Calls into Question FCC Findings on Broadband Deployment

Despite large swaths of the country still unserved or underserved by high quality broadband service and longstanding questions about data, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) reached a split conclusion that broadband-related services are being deployed “on a reasonable and timely basis.”

Notably, not all of the FCC’s commissioners agree with this conclusion, drawn from its annual Broadband Deployment Report, which it is required to release each year by Congress.

Uncertainties about FCC mapping and unreliable data mean the Commission can in no way reach any definitive conclusions about broadband deployment, Commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Jessica Rosenworcel said in separate statements.

“The fact that this report must rely on the unreliable should be reflected in its conclusions,” Commissioner Starks said. “I cannot approve the report’s confident declaration that this data constitutes ‘compelling evidence’ that Advanced Telecommunications Capability is being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis. We do not have a strong basis for that conclusion, and we should say so.”

In its report, the FCC claimed that the number of Americans lacking access to fixed terrestrial broadband service at 25/3 Mbps declined in 2018, going down by more than 14% in 2018 and more than 30% over the course of 2017 and 2018.

Additionally, the FCC claims the number of Americans without access to 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband with a median speed of 10/3 Mbps based on Ookla data declined approximately 54% between 2017 and 2018. And the vast majority of Americans—more than 85%, according to the FCC—now have access to fixed terrestrial broadband service at 250/25 Mbps, a 47% increase since 2017, with the number of rural Americans having access to 250/25 Mbps fixed terrestrial broadband service more than tripling between 2016 and 2018.

“This report is baffling,” Commissioner Rosenworcel said.

“Check the headlines decrying the lack of broadband in this country,” she added. “Look at Congress constantly pressing for new programs to extend the reach of internet access in the United States. See governors establishing committees and support systems to expand broadband to those who are not connected. Take note of mayors everywhere clamoring for better broadband so their communities have a fair shot at digital age success. Then look all around us. Because this [pandemic] is exposing what has long been obvious: too many Americans across the country do not have access to broadband.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

NERC Schedules Next GridEx Program Set for November 2021

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) will hold the next GridEx security program in November 2021.

According to NERC, next year’s GridEx will take place from Nov. 16-18, 2021.

NERC encouraged stakeholders to use the E-ISAC Portal and the NERC website for more GridEx VI information. Resources to look out for include:

  • GridEx VI registration link
  • GridEx VI Fact Sheet
  • GridEx VI Frequently Asked Questions

GridEx VI is an operational exercise for electric utilities, related critical industries, and government partners in North America. Participants can engage in GridEx VI from their regular work locations during the two-day exercise. Participants simulate the actions they would take during an actual event under their organization’s established incident response plans. Those actions include sharing information on the status of grid operations internally and externally.

Please contact the UTC Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Team for more information.

UTC CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls

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

Webinars

  • May 5: How is Your Company Working Under COVID-19?
  • May 7: Five Reasons Your Utility Should Consider Investing in Broadband
  • May 18: Light Brigade Fiber 101
  • May 20: How Virginia’s IOUs are Solving the Digital Divide

Committee/Division calls

  • May 12: UtiliSite Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart at lockhart@utc.org
  • May 15: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • 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