November 16, 2020

Coming Soon: A New Industry Intelligence!

Editor’s Note: Within the next several weeks, Industry Intelligence will be undergoing an overhaul.

We hope these changes will provide more relevant content with the same UTC focus.

We are in the final stages of mapping out the new newsletter so stay tuned for more over the coming weeks!

–The UTC Industry Intelligence Team

Southern Urges FCC to Go Slow, if at all, on 6 GHz Expansion

As concerns grow that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) may act to reduce power restrictions on new unlicensed devices operating in the 6 GHz band, core UTC member Southern Company urged the agency to delay any further expansion of unlicensed operations in the band.

Southern Company officials met with FCC staff earlier this month to advise against moving ahead because the studies and models the FCC may be relying upon to make this decision are flawed and understate the likelihood of harmful interference.

At issue is the expectation that the FCC might act on its further proposed rulemaking proposals to increase the power limits and allow additional unlicensed devices to operate in the 6 GHz band.

Specifically, the FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would increase the power limits that apply to low power indoor (LPI) devices operating in the band. In its April order, the FCC restricted the “power spectral density” of LPI devices in the band to 5 dBm/MHz. In this further proposed rulemaking, the FCC is seeking to increase that power level to 8 dBm/MHz, despite numerous studies submitted into the record demonstrating that even the 5 dBm limit will result in harmful interference to existing users (Industry Intelligence, June 1, 2020).

During its meeting, Southern Company pointed to an analysis performed by Lockard & White that finds numerous faults with an earlier study by consulting group RKF which the FCC relied upon in its April 2020 order approving unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band.

The RKF study “dramatically understates” the impact that very low-power (VLP) devices could have on incumbent operations in the band and “improperly manipulates” this analysis to come up with a result that only benefits the proponents of expanding access to the band.

Moreover, Southern “again expressed its concern over the lack of transparency regarding the various technical studies and analyses that RLAN proponents are relying on to support their assertions in this proceeding. These parties have failed to submit their methodologies into the record in a manner that would allow affected stakeholders – as well as the Commission – to replicate their approach, and thus the Commission cannot rely upon these analyses as support for any finding that incumbent operators such as Southern will be protected from harmful interference.”

UTC will be making similar points when it meets with FCC staff on this issue over the next few weeks.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

AEP, Dominion Talk Utility Broadband at NARUC Meeting

Two UTC core utility members highlighted the numerous ways utilities empower broadband deployment in separate presentations before the nation’s state public service commissioners last week.

American Electric Power (AEP) Executive Vice President-Utilities Lisa Barton participated in a general session during last week’s virtual National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Annual Meeting and Education Conference, discussing AEP’s programs to help bring broadband service to unserved areas of its service territory in Virginia and West Virginia.

Additionally, Dominion Energy Virginia President Ed Baine participated in another panel to discuss his company’s partnership with Prince George Electric Cooperative in Surry County, Va., to bridge the digital divide in another underserved part of the Commonwealth.

Both presentations noted the key—and growing—role electric utilities are playing to empower broadband deployment across the country.

In her remarks, during the NARUC event’s opening general session, Ms. Barton noted that the digital divide across AEP’s service territory is quite real and something “that quite frankly electric utilities are very well positioned to help address.”

She pointed to middle-mile pilot programs in Virginia and West Virginia as examples of the “synergies” that utilities can bring to resolve this problem.

Later in the week, Dominion’s Mr. Baine reviewed his company’s middle-mile projects in Virginia, which are pending approval before the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

In response to a question about whether the national telecommunications companies have shown opposition to these efforts, Mr. Baine stated that this is all about trying to bring a needed service to his customers. “We’re trying to solve a problem,” he said. “If [the national carriers] want to play more in this space, so be it.”

Mr. Baine also highlighted the role UTC has taken to advocate on behalf of the industry on broadband issues.

UTC thanks AEP and Dominion for participating in these important panels, and thanks NARUC for including them in the agenda.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC Wraps Up Successful 5G, Broadband, Small Cell Workshop

Thanks to all those who attended last week’s successful 5G, Broadband, and Small Cell Workshop!

Last week’s workshop included numerous panels and training sessions on the challenges and opportunities facing the utility industry as 5G wireless and broadband deployments grow.

UTC President and CEO Sheryl Riggs opened the conference on Nov. 10, noting that broadband deployment is one of the most critical challenges of our time, as exemplified by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, one session focused on the pandemic and its impact on utilities, while other sessions analyzed the state of small-cell attachments, rights-of-way, and recent court litigation.

More information on the meeting is available here: https://utc.org/event/5g-and-utilities-workshop/

UTC Calendar of Events

Regional Meetings—All Virtual

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls

Committee/Division calls

  • NOTE NEW DATE! Nov. 16: Security, Risk, & Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Nov. 17: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Nov. 18: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Nov. 19: Public Policy Division Call–For more information, contact Rob Thormeyer
  • Nov. 19: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Dec. 8: UtiliSite Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Dec. 8: Knowledge & Learning Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart