October 09, 2018

SPONSOR

RFL_INTELSPONSOR_JUNE_2018 (1)

FCC Tees Up Action on Expanded Access to 6 GHz Band

As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) will initiate a rulemaking process that, if finalized, will allow new unlicensed use of the 6 GHz spectrum band.

The FCC plans on taking this step at its Oct. 23 open meeting, the agency said last week. The Commission will also propose action to realign the 3.5 GHz band (see related story).

A draft of the proposed rulemaking was released late last week. In an accompanying fact sheet, the Commission says it will protect incumbent 6 GHz license holders as it expands access to the band.

According to the FCC, the proposed rules allow unlicensed users to operate “only in locations and frequencies where they would not cause harmful interference to the licensed services in the band.”

The agency also said its rules for two types of unlicensed devices are tailored to protect incumbents in the band through the following:

  • In the 5.925-6.425 GHz and 6.525-6.875 GHz sub-bands, unlicensed devices would only be allowed to transmit under the control of an automated frequency control (AFC) system.
  • In the 6.425-6.525 GHz and 6.875-7.125 GHz sub-bands, unlicensed devices would be restricted to indoor use and would operate at lower power, without an AFC system.

UTC has not had a chance to fully review and digest the proposed rulemaking. However, our longstanding position—as codified in a resolution approved at the May 2018 Telecom & Technology Meeting—clearly states our opposition to expanded access to the 6 GHz band.

Additionally, UTC hopes that the full-blown rulemaking process will make clear that expanded access to the band will indeed cause interference to mission-critical utility communications systems. The 6 GHz band is already heavily used by utilities, railroads, pipelines, and other critical infrastructure.

Finally, the UTC Public Policy Team has made this a top advocacy priority. We will be providing frequent updates as this rulemaking proceeds. Please contact the Public Policy Team with any questions.

FCC Plans to Expand Size of 3.5 GHz Band Licenses; UTC/WISPA Seek Waiver for Transition Period

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) will act on a proposal to realign the 3.5 GHz spectrum band at its Oct. 23 open meeting.

If approved, the FCC proposal would expand the size of priority access licenses (PALs) to counties and seek comment on the pre-auction process in certain markets.

The FCC is moving ahead despite considerable opposition from a broad array of economic interests, including UTC and other representatives of critical infrastructure industries. These industries, working together as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Coalition, have raised concerns about how expanding the size of the PALs will make it difficult for many businesses to compete for the licenses.

Over the last year, the IIoT Coalition has offered numerous counter proposals with the hope of reaching common ground between a huge and diverse swath of the U.S. economy and the telecommunications industry, but to no avail.

According to the FCC, its proposal would:

  • Increase the size of PAL license areas from census tracts to counties.
  • Extend the license terms to ten years and making such licenses renewable.
  • Establish end-of-the-term performance requirements.
  • Ensure seven PALs are available nationwide and allow the use of bidding credits for rural and Tribal entities.
  • Permit partitioning and disaggregation of areas within PALs.
  • Update information security requirements to protect sensitive Citizens Broadband Radio Service Device registration information while still ensuring aggregate data on spectrum use is publicly available.
  • Facilitate transmission over wider channels without significant power reductions.

UTC is still reviewing the draft proposal. The IIoT Coalition, responding to criticism that it had not been willing to compromise, issued the following statement after the draft was released: “Members of the IIoT coalition met with FCC commissioners and discussed numerous proposals and compromise positions that we believe serve the public as a whole, not one or two stakeholders. While we will withhold final comment until we have a chance to digest the proposal to be considered by the FCC later this month, we would encourage the FCC to consider how this plan will benefit the public at large, including the public served directly by the utilities, manufacturers, transportation providers, and other business enterprises that drive the nation’s economy.”

In related news, UTC and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) jointly filed a petition requesting a three-year extension of the April 2020 deadline for incumbents in the 3650-3700 MHz part of the band to comply with the new Part 96 rules.

In the petition, UTC and WISPA said the waiver is necessary due to unique circumstances that make it difficult if not impossible to comply with the new rules. Specifically, it has taken far longer than expected for the Spectrum Access System (SAS) database to be developed; there is no commercially available equipment available for incumbent to use; and there are no currently available generally authorized access (GAA) operation nor are there likely to be any priority access licensed systems operational by April 2020. UTC/WISPA also explained that the Commission has granted waivers for similar situations in the past and that it should do so again here.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Utilities ‘Enable’ Broadband Deployment in Rural America, UTC Tells Senate Committee

UTC urged a key Senate committee to consider the important role utilities play in expanding broadband services to rural America.

In a statement for the record submitted to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee before an Oct. 4 hearing on broadband issues, UTC said utilities are key partners in bridging the digital divide, either by providing access to their infrastructure to broadband suppliers or by actually providing broadband services in unserved and underserved areas.

“Although our membership is diverse, they all share the belief that access to affordable and reliable broadband is a key economic driver for our nation,” UTC wrote. “Indeed, electric utilities in particular enable broadband access in multiple ways, including through pole-attachment processes. Additionally, where not prohibited by state or local statute, a number of utilities are actually providing broadband services themselves in areas where private firms have decided not to deploy such services. Most of these locations are in rural areas.”

Pole attachments, UTC said, can assist in broadband expansion, but the policies implemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to artificially lower rates and impose shot clocks on regulatory reviews have not proven to bring broadband services to rural America.

“In fact, evidence suggests that lower pole-attachment rates have no bearing on the deployment of rural broadband,” UTC said. “Indeed, state governmental agencies have found no conclusive evidence linking lower pole fees to rural broadband expansion. The Virginia State Corporation Commission concluded, in a 2011 report, that, ‘No persuasive evidence was submitted in this proceeding that proved lower pole-attachment rates would directly result in additional broadband deployment.’ Additionally, the communications industry has advocated that the only way to bridge the rural Digital Divide is through federal subsidies. Finally, the FCC’s own records demonstrate that broadband is not being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis, despite the continued reduction of pole attachment rates and the imposition of additional requirements.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Annual EUTC Meeting Features Top-Level Dialogue on Data, Cybersecurity, IT/OT Integration

EUTC, UTC’s independent international unit for Europe, held its annual conference during the week of Sept. 29, in Malmö, Sweden. Attendees were greeted upon arrival by high-tech: the 11-minute train ride from Copenhagen airport in Denmark to Malmö traverses the Øresund—the strait which separates the two cities–via bridge and tunnel, the two being connected at a man-made island.

With high-tech firmly entrenched, attendees were treated to two days of well-received content. This year’s educational program was designed entirely by the EUTC Executive Committee, which ensured that the topics are of current interest to EUTC member utilities. Highlight sessions included:

  • Keynote by the host utility, E.ON.
  • A panel on Utility Big Data, loaded with speakers from Rand Water, Salt River Project,  and Innogy.
  • Managing quickly evolving cybersecurity threats.
  • 4G and IoT (Internet of Things) Applications.
  • Effective IT/OT Integration.
  • Spectrum Requirements for Utilities.
  • A closing plenary on 5G and utilities, including the European Commission’s Directorate-General, Energy.

The high-quality speaker roster was about 50% utility employees, with the remainder split among technology partners and regulatory authorities. Speakers came from as far as South Africa and Arizona, while others simply drove across town to the Malmömässan convention center.

The Exposition Hall was lively, some old friendships being renewed, and new friendships being struck. The diversity of topics in the educational sessions carried over into the Expo Hall, with several vendors and utilities exploring previously unexpected working relationships.

The event finished to strong reviews of the content and the networking, giving EUTC a firm foundation upon which to serve its members going forward. EUTC’s Executive Committee will begin planning its 2019 events immediately.

Ditto Pledges UTC Support for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October is officially National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

In kicking off the month, UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto issued a statement touting the Association’s commitment to working with federal and state government partners to protect utility infrastructure from cyberattack.

“On behalf of the Utilities Technology Council, I wish to acknowledge our support for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Our nation’s electric, water, and gas utilities take the issue of cybersecurity extremely seriously. Indeed, the electric utility industry remains the only industry subject to mandatory cybersecurity standards enforced by the federal government,” Ms. Ditto said.

“Nearly all electric, water, and natural gas utilities operate and maintain their own Information and Communications Technology (ICT) networks. These networks underpin the reliable operation of our nation’s electric, gas, and water infrastructure. As demonstrated by the several annual testing and scenario-training exercises, energy and water utilities are constantly working together to shore up and improve the security of their ICT networks from cyberattack. We also work closely with our federal partners—notably the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy—and our state regulators. A strong and sustainable public-private partnership is essential to combat the ever-evolving cyber threats facing our nation.

“We look forward to continuing our strong engagement with our government partners to protect the nation’s safety and wellbeing.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a toolkit detailing key messages, articles, and social media promotional efforts tied to National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2018.

According to DHS, this year’s theme is centered around the shared responsibilities between government and industry. The toolkit is a comprehensive guide with a wealth of resources to make it easy to engage and promote the month.

UTC is an active participant in numerous federal and industry partnerships related to security of the grid. Additionally, our Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee (SRCC) is engaged on these topics as well. For more information, please contact the SRCC team.

Upcoming Events

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

  • Regional Meetings! Click here for a list of the fall regional meetings!
  • Oct. 16: Utilities Broadband Committee Call; for more information, contact Brett Kilbourne.
  • Oct. 17: IT/OT Committee Call; for more information, contact Bob Lockhart.
  • Oct. 18: Public Policy Division Call; for more information, contact Sharla Artz.