September 16, 2019

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Wireless Industry Petition Significantly Impacts Utility Infrastructure

The cell-phone industry is seeking even greater authority to site its equipment on all kinds of infrastructure, including utility poles, repeating old arguments that doing so will help the U.S. win the fabled “Race to 5G.”

In a broadside filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission), the industry requests that the Commission take swift action to remove even more regulatory requirements on their attempts to attach small-cellular devices to utility infrastructure.

If approved, the proposals contained in this filing would have significant impacts to UTC’s membership.

According to a Sept. 13 FCC notice, comments on the proposal will be due Oct. 15 with replies due Oct. 30.

First, CTIA requests that the Commission take the following actions to clarify which deployments qualify for streamlined processing and the remedies available under 6409(a):

  • Concealment Requirements. The Commission should clarify that the term “concealment element” in its rules applies only to a stealth facility or design element, such as an artificial tree limb or screen, and that concealment requirements may not be used to disqualify an application as an eligible facilities request (“EFR”).
  • Equipment Cabinets. The Commission should clarify that the term “equipment cabinet” in its rules means cabinets that are placed on the ground or elsewhere on the premises, and does not include equipment attached to the structure itself, which is covered by other parts of the rule.
  • Modifications to Non-Tower Structures. The Commission should clarify that the entire structure or building is the “base station” being modified, and thus that the size of the structure determines if a modification qualifies as an EFR.
  • Failure to Act. The Commission should clarify that if a siting authority fails to timely act on an application for an EFR under 6409(a), and the application is thus deemed granted, applicants may lawfully construct even if the locality has not issued related permits

Second, CTIA requests that the Commission take the following actions to remove uncertainty about access to utility poles under Section 224:

  • Access to Light Poles. The Commission should declare that the term “pole” includes light poles, and that utilities thus must afford nondiscriminatory access to light poles at rates, terms, and conditions consistent with the requirements of Section 224 and the Commission’s implementing pole attachment rules.
  • Access to Space on Poles. The Commission should reaffirm that utilities may not impose blanket prohibitions on access to any portions of the poles they own.
  • Pole Attachment Agreements. The Commission should declare that utilities cannot ask providers to accept terms and conditions that are inconsistent with the Commission’s rules.

UTC is still reviewing the petition, its implications, and determining how to respond. The Public Policy Team is scheduling calls to update UTC members on the contents and to discuss next steps.

Please contact the Public Policy Team with any questions.

Power Grid 4.0 Is Next Month—Check Out the Latest Updates!

Electric utility executives all over North America are coming to Montréal next month to share best practices and lessons learned about digitalization. Across the globe, electric utilities are looking to go digital as they modernize their systems to enable greater customer engagement and deploy new and emerging distribution technologies. This forum will be a first in North America.

UTC’s “Power Grid 4.0—Digitalization Forum” will be held in Montreal from Oct. 16-18, 2019. The event is hosted by Hydro Quebec with the premier sponsor being SNC-Lavalin, an engineering partner expert at mastering complex projects over the last 100 years.

For all the details about the speakers and meeting agendas, please visit the event website: https://utcpowergrid.org/

“This event will be a key global forum for utilities, policymakers, our vendor partners, and other stakeholders to discuss these important issues,” said UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto. “By bringing major decisionmakers and executives in North America under one roof, we can learn from each other as utilities consider enhancing investments into new and emerging technologies. My thanks to Hydro Quebec for hosting and SNC-Lavalin for their important sponsorship.”

Nearly all utilities deploy their own information and communications technology (ICT) networks to provide day-to-day situational awareness of their infrastructure. As utilities invest in grid modernization in response to customer demand, these networks are being transformed to enable greater deployment of renewable and distributed energy resources that require a more flexible grid. To support grid modernization, the investment in digital assets is paramount, and C-level executives are continuing to realize that now is the time to allocate resources to transform their core utility business.

That’s why the Digitalization Forum is so timely.

“Managing energy supply and demand is evolving and the interconnectivity between customers and utilities is changing our industry. Great relationship between the North American Utilities is key to develop and offer a better outcome that suits the customers’ needs. Hydro Québec is pleased to participate to this first digitalization forum, that brings together, all the major players of our industry to share expertise and best practices, to come up with real solutions and improve performance for the next generations,” said David Murray Chief Operating Officer of Hydro-Québec and President of Hydro-Québec Production.

‘’A vast portion of the power utility infrastructure in North America was constructed in the 1960s and is nearing ‘end of life.’ Power utilities are replacing their equipment while taking into account the numerous changes facing the industry. Such a digital transformation requires capital investments which, if done correctly, can be offset by significant reductions in operational cost. This forum has been created in order to address these issues,’’ said Alain Brière, vice-president & general manager Intelligent Networks & Cybersecurity, SNC-Lavalin.

UTC Hosts Nov. 6-8 5G, Broadband Workshop

UTC is hosting a critical workshop on 5G, broadband, and small-cell deployment from Nov. 6-8 just outside Nashville, TN. Have you registered?

The workshop will address how utilities are key players in the deployment of new communications technologies expected to unleash a wave of faster and broader connectivity. As bandwidth demand for these communications technologies, including both wireless and wireline, increases, so too does the demand on utilities, both in terms of increased broadband capacity and infrastructure access.

At the workshop, panelists will address what these changes mean for the deployment of fiber for retail and wholesale communications, including broadband for rural unserved areas and backhaul for wireless networks.  Attendees will learn how upgrading wireline and wireless networks improve utility communications, including for grid modernization and the industrial Internet of Things (IoT).

Finally, this workshop will address the implications for more small wireless antennas being attached to utility infrastructure, along with more regulations for faster deployment of the antennas and related equipment.

For more information, click here: https://utc.org/event/5g-and-utilities-workshop/

Pew Releases New State Broadband Policy Tracker

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ broadband project unveiled a new interactive tool to view, filter, and search all state policies pertaining to broadband deployment.

According to Pew, its new and first-of-its-kind “broadband policy explorer” allows users to search by:

  • Broadband programs
  • Competition and regulation
  • Funding and financing
  • Infrastructure access
  • Definitions for speed, unserved, and underserved

High-speed, reliable internet access is increasingly viewed as a necessity for modern American life. As national leaders consider how to expand access to this vital resource—especially to more rural and remote parts of the country—states may offer insight.

The tracker is updated to reflect state broadband policies as of Jan. 1, 2019.

In conjunction with the release of the tool, Pew distributed a compendium paper detailing state broadband actions, plans, and governing agencies responsible for implementing such plans.

The paper notes that states “differ in how they manage broadband deployment.”

Electric utilities are key partners in empowering broadband deployment, as many either through providing broadband services to their customers or are currently providing or investigating whether to provide so-called “middle mile” services in rural, underserved or unserved areas.

UTC is hosting a Nov. 6-8 5G, Broadband, and Small Cell Workshop near Nashville, TN., where many of these issues will be discussed (see related story).

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls

*NOTE: UTC issued a Call for Proposals for the May 2020 Telecom & Technology Annual Conference! Got a great idea for a panel? Let us know by Sept, 30! – Click Here

  • Sept. 16-19: Region 5 Meeting; Lacrosse, WI – Click Here
  • Oct. 2-4: Region 3 Meeting; Mobile, AL – Click Here
  • Oct. 10-11: Region 10 Meeting; Las Vegas – Click Here
  • Oct. 16-18: Power Grid 4.0 Digitalization Forum, Montreal, CN—For more information – Click Here
  • Nov. 5-7: UTC 5G, Broadband & Small Cells Workshop, Nashville – Click Here
  • May 18-22, 2020: Telecom & Technology Annual Meeting, Providence, RI

CONFERENCE CALLS/WEBINARS!

  • Sept. 17: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Sept. 18: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Sept. 19: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Sept. 19: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • Sept. 20: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz