FCC Fails to Balance Innovation, Protection of Critical Communications in 6 GHz Plan

 

Washington—April 23, 2020—The Utilities Technology Council issued the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) voted to approve an order allowing unlicensed operations in the critical 6 GHz spectrum band:

“We have yet to see the final rule approved today by the Federal Communications Commission. Once we review the order we will have more extensive comments. Expanding WiFi access is undoubtedly a critical goal that could result in significant benefits to all Americans. Our nation’s electric, water, and natural gas utilities believe there is a way to usher in these game-changing applications while also protecting the very networks needed to power them. We worked in good faith with the FCC and proponents of allowing unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band to demonstrate the crucial need to protect the first responders, public safety and critical-infrastructure industries (CII) that use the band for lifesaving and life-sustaining communications. We submitted real-world studies analyzing what could happen to existing communications networks in the band if the FCC proceeds without adequately protecting these systems from interference. Unfortunately, these studies proved that even at the power levels the FCC approved today, existing licensed communications systems in the band by utilities and other CII will receive harmful interference from unlicensed operations that are not controlled by automated frequency control (AFC) systems.

“Opening the 6 GHz band can be done in such a way that can both unleash the new innovations the FCC and others hope for while also protecting the CII systems already in the band. Doing so would take time, additional study, and stronger protections for incumbent systems. Today, the FCC appears to have decided on taking a much riskier approach that does not control low-power indoor operations using AFC. Nor does the FCC order provide additional testing to prevent interference from occurring or enforcement processes to resolve interference that does occur. We will be fully engaged in the upcoming further notice of proposed rulemaking.

In terms of next steps, UTC will discuss with its members and other stakeholders to determine how to proceed.”

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About UTC
The Utilities Technology Council (UTC) is a global trade association dedicated to serving critical infrastructure providers. Through advocacy, education and collaboration, UTC creates a favorable business, regulatory and technology environment for our members who own or operate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems in support of their core business. For more information: UTC.org