November 11, 2019

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Editor’s Note: No Industry Intelligence Nov. 25, Dec. 2

Dear Readers,

Due to the Thanksgiving Day Holiday, Industry Intelligence will not publish on Monday, Nov. 25 or Monday, Dec. 2. We will resume our weekly schedule on Monday, Dec. 9.

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

We are thankful for our members!

The Industry Intelligence Team

Bipartisan Group of Senators Express Concern with 6 GHz Proceeding

Sen. James Risch (R-ID) led a coalition of nearly a dozen senators in sending a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) Chairman Ajit Pai urging the agency to prove it can protect utility and other critical-infrastructure industry communications networks using the 6 GHz band as it proceeds with a rulemaking to allow unlicensed users into the band.

The letter, signed by a bipartisan group of Senators, stemmed from a meeting Sen. Risch held with members of the UTC Board of Directors during the Board’s annual fly-in this past July.

“Although the FCC has proposed a mitigation tool to protect these and other CII from harmful interference, this tool has not been tested and remains theoretical,” the letter states. “Given the criticality of electricity, water, and natural gas services to our economy and lifestyles, it is bad policy to put these systems at risk. Utilities already plan their systems to withstand all kinds of hazards, including high-risk, low-probability events. The 6 GHz band is a major part of our utilities ‘ playbook for responding to these challenges, and this proposal puts this playbook at risk unless you can ensure protection from harmful interference.”

The following Senators signed the letter:

  • James Risch (R-ID)
  • Mike Crapo (R-ID)
  • Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
  • Joe Manchin (D-WV)
  • David A. Perdue (R-GA)
  • Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV)
  • James Inhofe (R-OK)
  • James Lankford (R-OK)
  • Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
  • John Kennedy (R-LA)
  • Angus King (I-ME)

“Getting so many bipartisan Senators on a single letter is a significant statement. Special thanks to Idaho Power for helping Sen. Risch’s staff, and thanks to all of those who worked to get their Senator on the letter,” said UTC Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Policy, and Cybersecurity Sharla Artz. “Our advocacy efforts helped these Senators and others understand that there is a better approach to achieving the desired outcome – especially given the impact to critical infrastructure owners and operators from the FCC proposal as drafted. This is an important development.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Utilities, Firefighters, Public Safety, Railroads Urge FCC to Protect CI Incumbents in 6 GHz Band

A broad cross-section of public safety and critical-infrastructure industry organizations, along with more than 55 individual electric utilities of all ownership types and sizes, urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) to adopt stringent measures to protect communications systems located in a critical spectrum band.

In a Nov. 8 letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the group, including trade associations representing nearly every electric utility in the U.S., freight railroads, firefighters and first responders, thousands of water and wastewater utilities, gas, oil, and pipeline companies, nuclear generators and much more, encouraged the agency to pursue the strictest controls possible before moving ahead with its proposal.

At issue is the FCC’s controversial plan to open the critical 6 GHz spectrum band to commercial, unlicensed users. Presently the band is used by critical-infrastructure industries (CII) such as electric, water, and natural gas utilities, railroads, public safety, and other CII for vital communications systems. Opening the band to unlicensed use raises the real threat that these mission-critical networks could be compromised, the groups said.

“This diverse group of organizations all share a common interest in preserving and protecting the 6 GHz band against interference to provide safe, secure, and reliable essential services to the public at large,” the letter states. “Therefore, we join together in opposition to the Federal Communications Commission’s (Commission) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding unlicensed use of the 6 GHz band.”

Associations signing the letter are:

  • American Gas Association
  • American Petroleum Institute
  • American Water Works Association
  • Association of American Railroads
  • American Public Power Association
  • Edison Electric Institute
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • Government Wireless Technology & Communications Association
  • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
  • Nuclear Energy Institute
  • Utilities Technology Council

“The broad swath of public services represented on this letter should give the Federal Communications Commission great pause before proceeding with this controversial proposal,” said UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto. “Some of our nation’s most critical industries rely on the 6 GHz spectrum band for mission-critical communications. These communications cannot tolerate the potential for degradation. The threats to our collective vital networks by this plan, even if unintentional, are real and could have serious implications if the FCC proceeds as proposed. The FCC cannot and must not ignore the public safety services that have significant concerns about this plan.”

These entities represent nearly every electric, water, gas, and nuclear utility in the U.S. Additionally, public safety, firefighters, freight rail, and offshore oil and gas producing interests signed the letter. Finally, more than 55 individual electric utilities of all sizes and ownership types—privately owned, cooperatively owned, and publicly owned—signed the letter as well.

Although these entities have different missions and needs, they all provide essential public services, and they all rely on the 6 GHz band for mission-critical communications.

The letter follows similar concerns raised by the Department of Energy and members of Congress. UTC has a number of resources related to the 6 GHz issue on this page: https://utc.org/6ghz/

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

State Regulators Consider Resolution Urging FCC to Test 6 GHz System Before Proceeding

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) will discuss a draft resolution recommending that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not act on the 6 GHz rulemaking until and unless the proposed mitigation measures work as intended and are applied to all uses of the band.

NARUC will take up the issue during its Nov. 17-20 Annual Meeting in San Antonio.

The NARUC draft resolution indicates that state utility regulators have a direct interest in the proceeding given their oversight role over the safety and reliability of electricity, gas, and water services.

The policy, if approved, will firmly state NARUC’s position that the FCC should only proceed “unless and until such time that it has tested and proven that its Automatic Frequency Coordination (AFC) system works as intended to protect utility and other CII systems, and that the FCC require AFC for all unlicensed operations.”

UTC has participated in numerous NARUC meetings over the last several years. Indeed, President and CEO Joy Ditto has appeared on three general sessions at NARUC events since 2017 to discuss the growing interdependencies between the electricity and telecommunications industries.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Draft Policy Resolutions for May 2020 T&T Meeting Due Jan. 31

Members of the Utilities Technology Council have until Jan. 31, 2020, to submit ideas or concepts for potential policy resolutions to be adopted at the association’s annual Telecom & Technology conference next May.

This will mark the third time UTC pursues policy positions through the resolution process as approved by the UTC Board in its December 2017 meeting.

Any UTC core utility member can submit a proposed resolution or ideas for a resolution to UTC’s Public Policy Team by Jan. 31. Only UTC core utility members can submit a resolution; if a vendor member has an idea, it must be sponsored and submitted by a core utility member.

Once all the proposed resolutions are collected by UTC staff, the Public Policy Division (PPD) will formally accept and discuss the proposals during its regularly scheduled February meeting. PPD members will have the opportunity to edit and debate the proposed resolutions prior to its March call, at which point the division will vote on the resolutions. This call will be open to all UTC core utility members.

Any resolutions cleared by the PPD will be submitted for review and consideration by the entire UTC membership at the annual Telecom and Technology meeting in Providence, RI, from May 18-22. Resolutions for consideration at the annual meeting must be distributed to the entire association membership no later than two weeks prior to the event. Additionally, the proposed resolutions will also be posted on the UTC Website.

UTC’s core utility members will vote on the proposed resolutions during the association’s business meeting at the annual conference. Each UTC core utility member company will have one vote during the meeting, meaning that core members must designate one person to cast the company’s vote.

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

For more information, please contact UTC’s Public Policy Team. An FAQ about the resolutions process is available here.

Resolutions approved at since 2018 annual meeting are available here.

UTC CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls

  • May 18-22, 2020: Telecom & Technology Annual Meeting, Providence, RI

CONFERENCE CALLS/WEBINARS!

  • Nov. 12: UtiliSite Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Nov. 12: Knowledge & Learning Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Nov. 15: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • Nov. 19: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Nov. 20: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Nov. 21: Technical Division Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Nov. 21: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Nov. 21: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz