May 6, 2019

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T&T Spotlight: Have YOU Designated Your Voting Representative 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!

Have you designated your voting representative for next month’s Telecom & Technology policy resolution forum in Fort Worth?

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.

As we did last year, UTC has secured a parliamentarian to ensure the voting procedures follow Robert’s Rules of Order. This allows opportunity for debate and modification of the resolutions up for consideration.

UTC core voting members will vote on the following issues:

  • Resolution Urging the Federal Communications Commission to Protect Critical Infrastructure Incumbents in the 6 GHz Band; and
  • Resolution on Right to Repair

Text of the resolutions will be made available well in advance of the T&T meeting; 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.

Pai to Sen. Kennedy: Protecting Incumbents in 6 GHz an ‘Important Consideration’

Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) Ajit Pai told a U.S. senator last week that the Commission does not share concerns that the its proposal to allow unlicensed use in the 6 GHz spectrum band will cause interference to incumbent users in the band, including utilities.

In an April 29 response to Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), Chairman Pai notes that protecting incumbents in the band is “an important consideration” and he is confident that the FCC’s proposal to do so will work.

Chairman Pai says the Automated Frequency Control (AFC) system, which has yet to be tested, will protect licensed users from interference. “The AFC system would identify frequencies on which unlicensed devices could operate without causing harmful interference to fixed point-to-point microwave receivers,” he said.

At issue is the FCC’s controversial proposal to open the 6 GHz spectrum band to unlicensed use. The FCC issued a proposed rulemaking to do so in October 2018, seeking comment on whether and how to protect incumbent license holders from interference (Industry Intelligence, Oct. 29, 2018).

Sen. Kennedy, after hearing from UTC and our members, sent a letter to Chairman Pai in early April urging him to protect incumbents such as utilities and oil and gas companies from interference, and raised concerns that the AFC system may not work as intended (Industry Intelligence, April 8, 2019).

Chairman Pai, however, apparently does not share these concerns. Importantly, though, his letter signaled that any devices using the 6 GHz band for indoor use will be required to operate at a lower power. “Because technical aspects of these mobile services make the use of an AFC system impractical, the FCC has proposed a combination of lower-power and indoor operations, which would protect licensed services operating on these frequencies from harmful interference,” Chairman Pai wrote.

Proponents of opening the band to unlicensed use have suggested that the FCC should remove the proposed restrictions Chairman Pai described in his letter.

Aside from that, the letter otherwise demonstrates that Chairman Pai may have his mind made up about the 6 GHz proceeding. UTC is continuing its strong advocacy push in Congress and elsewhere to ensure verifiable and adequate protections of incumbents in the band.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

FCC Revises Draft Broadband Deployment Report; Questions Still Abound

Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) Chairman Ajit Pai is taking fire for a newly revised draft agency conclusion that the Commission’s policies are making “significant progress” in closing the rural digital divide.

The FCC’s two Democratic members—Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks—both said the report’s draft conclusions are questionable at best. Despite the draft report’s findings, both commissioners noted that broadband service remains out of reach for many in rural America.

At issue is the revised version of the 2019 draft Broadband Deployment Report, which Chairman Pai first released in February. The initial draft reached the same conclusion—that broadband services are being deployed in rural areas—but was criticized for lacking information (Industry Intelligence, Feb. 25, 2019).

In releasing the revised draft report, the Commission admits that the previous version included data from a company that “drastically overstated” its broadband deployment data to the agency. The FCC, in a press release, did not name the company.

With the revisions, the FCC draft report still finds that much has been done to deploy broadband in unserved and underserved areas.

“We’re pleased that the FCC’s policy of making deployment data open and transparent to the public resulted in this error being discovered,” Chairman Pai said. “Fortunately, the new data doesn’t change the report’s fundamental conclusion: we are closing the digital divide, which means we’re delivering on the FCC’s top priority.”

According to the FCC, the revised draft report shows that since last year, the number of Americans lacking access to a fixed terrestrial broadband connection meeting the FCC’s advanced telecommunications capability benchmark speed of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps has dropped by over 18%, from 26.1 million Americans at the end of 2016 to 21.3 million at the end of 2017. Moreover, the majority of those gaining access to such high-speed connections, approximately 4.3 million, live in rural America, where broadband deployment has traditionally lagged.

Higher-speed services are being deployed at a rapid rate as well. For example, the number of Americans with access to at least 250 Mbps/25 Mbps broadband grew in 2017 by more than 36%, to 191.5 million. And the number of rural Americans with access to such broadband increased by 85.1% in 2017. In addition, the number of Americans with access to 100 Mbps/10 Mbps broadband grew in 2017 by more than 18%, to 288.4 million, while the number of rural Americans with access to such broadband increased by 44% in 2017, to 37.4 million.

The report itself has not been made publicly available.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Utility Grids, Broadband Among Items Discussed in Tentative WH-Congress Infrastructure Deal

President Trump and senior congressional Democratic leaders have agreed in theory to a massive $2 trillion effort to build out and modernize U.S. infrastructure, including utility infrastructure and rural broadband.

Although details have yet to be hammered out, the President and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the makings of a deal after a meeting early last week.

According to various statements from the White House, the congressional leaders, and media reports, the tentative agreement will fund efforts to “rebuild” roads, bridges, highways, tunnels, railroads, air-travel systems, the power grid, and expand rural broadband.

“We talked about a number of things we would do,” said Minority Leader Schumer in a press briefing after the meeting. “Obviously, the roads and the bridges and the highways. Obviously, water, but also a big emphasis on broadband, that every American home, we believe, needs broadband. An emphasis on the power grid so that we can bring clean energy from one end of the county to the other, and several other issues.”

White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the meeting “excellent and productive.” Both sides indicated they will return for a follow-up meeting in a few weeks “to discuss specific proposals and financing methods,” Ms. Sanders said.

“It’s about jobs, jobs, jobs,” Leader Pelosi said. “It’s about promoting commerce. It’s about clean air, clean water, so therefore a public health issue. It’s a quality of life issue, getting people out of their cars not being on the road so much. And in every way, it is a safety issue.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Upcoming Events

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

  • May 14: Knowledge & Learning Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • May 15: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • May 16: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • May 16: Public Power Division Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • May 17: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Webinar—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • May 21: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • June 17-21, 2019: Telecom & Technology annual meeting
  • Save the Date! Aug.21-22, 2019: UTC Broadband Workshop–More information coming soon