September 30, 2019

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UTC’s Power Grid 4.0 Forum is Just Weeks Away—Register Now!

We’re just a few weeks away from the UTC Power Grid 4.0 Digitalization Forum—are you registered?

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. The event’s other sponsors include Linxon, Juniper Networks, and Black & Veatch.

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.

Senate Approps Committee Tells FCC to Protect Incumbents in 6 GHz Band

A key Senate committee wants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) to ensure that its controversial proposal to allow unlicensed access in the heavily used 6 GHz spectrum band does not interfere with existing critical-infrastructure communications systems already located in the band.

In an encouraging development in the utility industry’s efforts to push back against the FCC proposal, the Senate Appropriations Committee made the request earlier this month in report language when it passed the 2020 Financial Services and Government Appropriations Act (S. 2524), which appropriates funding for the FCC, among other agencies.

The report language in particular references the FCC’s 6 GHz proceeding and urges the agency to test its proposed measures to mitigate harmful interference to critical infrastructure if it proceeds with its proposed rulemaking.

“As the FCC considers allowing unlicensed use of the 6 Gigahertz band, the Committee expects the Commission to ensure its plan does not result in harmful interference to incumbent users or impact critical infrastructure communications systems,” the report language states. “The Committee is particularly concerned about the potential effects on the reliability of the electric transmission and distribution system. The Committee expects the FCC to ensure any mitigation technologies are rigorously tested in coordination with relevant sector specific agencies, and found to be effective in order to protect the electric transmission system.”

Congressional appropriators routinely include so-called “report language” to accompany appropriations legislation which funds the federal government. Typically this kind of language is used to send messages to federal agencies about how they are to spend their appropriated funding.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) chairs the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee within the Senate Appropriations Committee. After meeting with UTC and core utility member Entergy, Sen. Kennedy in early April sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressing his concern about the 6 GHz proposal (Industry Intelligence, April 8, 2019).

With the Senate Appropriations Committee having passed the bill unanimously, S. 2524 now moves to the full Senate for approval.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

Utility Groups Seek More Time to Comment on Pole-Attachment Petition

UTC joined fellow industry associations in seeking more time from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) to comment on a recent petition from the wireless industry to further reduce requirements necessary to safely attach telecommunications infrastructure to electricity poles.

UTC, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) told the FCC that more time is needed to carefully and thorough vet the petitions submitted in early September by CTIA and the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) which aim to  remove even more regulatory requirements on their attempts to attach small-cellular devices to utility infrastructure (Industry Intelligence, Sept. 16, 2019).

The FCC is requiring comments on the petitions to be filed with the agency by Oct. 15, with reply comments due Oct. 30.

This compressed timeframe is far too short given the broad considerations raised in both petitions, the utility groups said. “The issues raised present a broad set of new policy issues and factual allegations that require careful deliberation by the electric utility industry,” the utility groups said. “Furthermore, in light of the volume and size of past filings in response to proposals in this proceeding, as well as the invitation in the Public Notice for parties to submit ‘factual data and economic analysis’ of the costs and benefits of the specific declaratory rulings, additional time is merited to allow all interested parties adequate and appropriate time to response.”

Instead, the groups urged the FCC to move the initial comment deadline to Nov. 14, with replies due by Dec. 2.

Separately, a group of local government organizations filed a similar request with the Commission.

“Substantial comments will be needed to fully and properly address the significant issues and rule changes posed by the Petitions,” the cities and localities said. “Interested parties will also need time to assemble a factual record that illustrates how the Petitions’ proposals would impact modifications and collocations to existing facilities. Those comments will require more time than currently afforded by the deadlines set by the Public Notice.”

Because the FCC typically does not grant extensions of time, UTC will file comments on the proposal to meet the Oct. 15 deadline.

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

UTC Supports $20.4B Broadband Funding Proposal

Utilities empower broadband deployment and federal grant programs like the proposed Rural Digital Opportunity Fund are critical to helping utilities bridge the rural broadband gap, UTC told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission).

At issue is the FCC’s proposed Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, a $20.4 billion funding proposal to grant qualified entities support for expanding broadband services in unserved and underserved areas (Industry Intelligence, Aug. 5, 2019). The proposal would focus on areas currently served by “price cap” carriers, along with areas that were not won in the previous funding programs like the Connect America Fund Phase II auction and other areas that do not currently receive any high-cost universal service support.

UTC, in its comments on the proposal, praised the FCC for the proposal and its previous work on broadband funding opportunities that have allowed utilities to participate.

“UTC agrees with [FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s] goal of achieving similar results on an even greater scale from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund,” UTC said. “The RDOF proposes funding over ten years for broadband; so the decisions that are made in this proceeding will shape the deployment of broadband for a generation to come. That is why it is so important that we make the most of this opportunity and UTC thanks the Chairman and the Commission for making bringing this opportunity to reality.”

Utilities that have deployed broadband services in their communities have seen considerable interest and high subscription rates, proving that if provided, unserved and underserved areas will buy broadband, UTC said.

“Utilities are deploying broadband networks and providing broadband services in many areas that were previously unserved or underserved,” UTC told the FCC. “In many if not most cases, they are deploying fiber-to-the-home networks and providing broadband services with various tiers ranging up to gigabit speeds and for prices that are less than $100/month. In addition, many utilities are providing broadband connectivity into unserved areas and providing infrastructure access that enables third party providers to reach unserved areas to provide broadband services. Utilities have proven that it is indeed possible to provide broadband services into these areas where no one else would and where no one thought fiber-based services could be deployed economically. The customer response has been overwhelming, with many utilities reporting take rates of 70 percent or higher in certain areas.”

Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.

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

We are less than two months away from UTC’s 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/.

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!

  • 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. 6-8: UTC 5G, Broadband & Small Cells Workshop, Nashville – click here
  • May 18-22, 2020: Telecom & Technology Annual Meeting, Providence, RI – click here

CONFERENCE CALLS/WEBINARS!

  • Oct. 1: Training Webinar! Fiber to the Premise
  • Oct. 8: UtiliSite Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Oct. 8: Knowledge & Learning Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Oct. 15: Training Webinar! Teleprotection over Packet Networking
  • Oct. 15: Utilities Broadband Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Oct. 16: IT/OT Committee Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Oct. 17: Technical Division Call—For more information, contact Bob Lockhart
  • Oct. 17: Telecom Committee Call—For more information, contact Brett Kilbourne
  • Oct. 17: Public Policy Division Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • Oct. 18: Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee Call—For more information, contact Sharla Artz
  • Oct. 22: Training Webinar! LTE & Future 5G for the Utility
    Oct. 23: Sponsored Webinar! RFL: Substation IP Modernization
    Oct. 30: Sponsored Webinar! Aviat: OT over Packet Radio—Chugach Case Study