The Yin and the Yang
Without taking a position on the reasoning behind the partial government shutdown, it is an unusual time in Washington. And this comes from someone who’s been here 26 years and has experienced many unusual and some horrific events – several government shutdowns, 9/11, the ricin scare, the Beltway sniper, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, impeachment, the disputed Bush-Gore presidential elections, and the list goes on. Still, not to belabor the press reports as it is not news to most of you, many government employees aren’t getting paid and some government services are on hold.
In terms of UTC’s functions, we are still interacting with Congress, the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (both funded under normal appropriations procedures through the end of September) on our advocacy priorities – maintaining interference-free spectrum in the 6 GHz band for critical utility functions and ensuring that Congress understands how utilities rely on communications for reliability and resilience, especially in light of the FCC’s recent resilience proceeding in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Since the FCC is one of the government agencies subject to the partial shutdown, our comments in these dockets are pending until the Commission reopens. The rub is that all the comments will be due immediately after the agency reopens, so we are preparing our comments and other information to be ready for that eventuality. The silver lining is that we have more time to continue our education of Congress and other agencies on the importance of these dockets.
UTC also provides frequency coordination services to its members and others. Whenever a “private” wireless communications system in a licensed spectrum band (which is typically run by a critical infrastructure provider such as a utility) needs to add frequencies or expand its footprint, it must apply for a license via the FCC. This process is often onerous and requires familiarity with other licensees as well as specific technical considerations. UTC provides technical support and application preparation for entities needing to file and is only one of about 10 entities blessed by the FCC to perform this work.
Unfortunately, the FCC being shutdown means that these frequency applications will not be processed until it reopens. Fortunately, UTC can still do all the prep work and get the filing ready so it is in the queue when this “unusual” situation is resolved; our frequency coordination specialists can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The bottom line is that 75% of the government is open and we are continuing to work on our members’ behalf on our key policy issues. As for the other 25%, we will be ready when they come back online. Until we meet again…