October 5, 2020

U.S. Court Denies Effort to Stall FCC’s Controversial Spectrum Plan

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request that it stay the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC, the Commission) April 2020 6 GHz decision.

UTC, along with the Edison Electric Institute, American Public Power Association, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, last month lodged the request with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking it to stay the order’s implementation (Industry Intelligence, Sept. 14, 2020).

An international organization representing public safety entities also sought a stay of the FCC order.

In its decision, the court said the groups seeking the stay did not meet the “stringent requirements” for such an action.

The court’s decision sets the initial procedural framework for the broader-case on the legality of the 6 GHz order. UTC’s focus is now on the litigation of the order itself.

In response to media requests, UTC President and CEO Sheryl Riggs issued the following statement:

“We are disappointed with today’s decision by the Court to deny a stay of the effectiveness of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC, the Commission) order allowing unlicensed operations in the 6 GHz band. The FCC’s order threatens to cause harmful interference to mission-critical communications in the 6 GHz band used by utilities, public safety, and other vital users. We do, however, appreciate the court’s prompt action and look forward to continuing our judicial appeal of the FCC’s order.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

FCC Permits Leasing of 4.9 GHz Band

The Federal Communications Commission last week approved a plan that permits states to lease spectrum in 4.9 GHz.

The order is not yet available, but a press release with more information is available here: https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-expands-access-and-investment-49-ghz-band

According to the FCC, the order permits one statewide 4.9 GHz band licensee per state to lease some or all of its spectrum rights to third parties—including commercial and public safety users—in those states that the FCC has not identified as a diverter of 911 fees.

In addition, it does not limit or modify the rights of any incumbent public safety licensees, so they will be able to continue to provide existing services. These new rules also eliminate the requirement that the leased spectrum must be used to support public safety but would require lessees to adhere to the informal coordination requirements applicable to the band.

Also, the Commission issued a separate Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes a new state-based licensing regime for public safety operations in the band, which would complement the new leasing regime. The Further Notice proposes to make permanent the current freeze on new applications and grandfather all current public safety licensees. It also proposes to allow states without a statewide license to obtain such a license and seeks comment on the creation of a voluntary state band manager to coordinate operations in the band.

Lastly, it seeks comment on additional ways to implement and facilitate robust use of the band, including steps to address expanded access in states that divert 911 fees, the use of dynamic spectrum sharing, and ways to encourage collaboration across jurisdictions.

UTC’s members approved a resolution in 2018 supporting granting utility access to the band.

In response to media requests, UTC President and CEO Sheryl Riggs issued the following statement:

“We still are awaiting the final order approved today by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) allowing states to lease spectrum to utilities and other entities in the 4.9 GHz band. As our nation’s electric, gas, and water utilities modernize their infrastructure, access to spectrum is critical to ensure the continued safe, reliable and secure delivery of essential energy and water services. Utility communications systems underpin the reliable, resilient operation of essential electric, gas, and water services, and UTC looks forward to working with states to explore opportunities for utilities to access spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Utility, Rural Telecom Groups Urge Congress to Clarify Spending Deadlines

Congress should extend deadlines for funding approved in legislation. It approved to support businesses and families during the coronavirus pandemic, UTC and a group of utility and telecom organizations said.

Especially as millions of Americans continue to work and study from home, the funding Congress approved in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 should be available for broadband expansion as well, the groups wrote in a letter to Congress last week.

“With millions of Americans across the country working remotely, children attending classes virtually, and Americans seeking telehealthcare services, Internet connectivity and the infrastructure needed to provide it are more important than ever,” the letter said. “A number of state, local, tribal or territorial governments have identified robust, affordable broadband as a coronavirus-related need and are spending a portion of their available coronavirus relief funds on long-term broadband infrastructure. Other state, local, tribal or territorial governments have identified this as a need but want clarification from Congress that it is an eligible expense prior to moving forward.”

Aside from UTC, groups signing the letter include the Edison Electric Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association.

The letter was sent in response to calls from numerous lawmakers to clarify that CARES Act dollars marked for state and local communities can be used for permanent broadband infrastructure projects and to push Congress to allow states additional time for the buildout of that broadband infrastructure. Currently, states are required to spend these dollars by Dec. 31, 2020. Congressmen Welch (D-VT) and Aderholt (R-AL) recently sent a bipartisan letter to House and Senate Leadership urging them to take immediate action regarding these issues.

“As Representatives Aderholt and Welch highlighted in a letter to you on August 7, 2020, and echoed by other bipartisan letters, Congress should ensure that the funds may be utilized to adequately bridge the digital divide for those consumers that need it most and provide flexibility on the date by which funds must be spent,” UTC and the groups wrote.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC Calendar of Events

Regional Meetings—All Virtual

Webinars

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls

Committee/Division calls

  • Oct. 13: UtiliSite Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Oct. 13: Knowledge & Learning Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Oct. 15: Public Policy Division Call–For more information, contact Rob Thormeyer
  • Oct. 15: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Oct. 16: Security, Risk, & Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Oct. 20: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Oct. 21: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart