March 2011

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Allocating 10 MHz of D-block to Public Safety Could Provide “$3.4 Billion More in Social Benefits", New Study Says

Preliminary analysis in a new report suggests that the 10 MHz D Block plausibly provides at least $3.4 billion more in social benefits if assigned to public safety rather than to commercial use. While a utility-public safety spectrum sharing scenario is not evaluated by the paper, it does provide a starting point to consider the further benefits of such a partnership. Read more »

Bill Moroney - Moving On . . .

It is with an enormous pride in our collective accomplishments at UTC that I announce my intention to move on.

I have today advised the UTC Board of my intention to resign as the Utilities Telecom Council’s President, and Chief Executive Officer and the process to select my replacement will begin shortly.   I expect that my successor will be in place in the next few months and that UTC will continue to provide the superb level of advocacy and service that it has become known for.   I have committed to the Board that I will do everything necessary to ensure a smooth transition. Read more »

UTC Urges FCC to Promote Utility Access to 4.9 GHz Spectrum

During a conference on the 4.9 GHZ band at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week, UTC suggested that the FCC could increase the use of the band by changing the rules to enable greater use by utilities. Specifically, UTC explained that the eligibility rules currently discourage utilities from accessing the band, such that there are less than 20 licenses that are held by utilities, all of whom are municipal utilities. UTC added that the rules discourage fixed use of the band for certain utility applications, such as meter reading. UTC recommended that the FCC allow utilities to access the band directly, and on a primary basis with other public safety licensees. We also recommended that the FCC permit all fixed operations to be licensed on a permanent primary basis, not just temporary fixed or fixed operations that link mobile or broadband networks as currently provided under the rules.

 

UTC's presentation can be viewed here.

FCC Official "Pleas" for Legal Basis to Allow Utilities to Share Public Safety Spectrum

During an Interoperability Forum held on Friday, March 4, 2011, Erika Olsen, Special Counsel to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau pleaded for parties to submit legal arguments to support the secondary use of the 700 MHz public safety spectrum including utilities and other critical infrastructure industries. Olsen explained that the FCC is revisiting this issue in light of statements of support by certain public safety entities who want to promote coordination of emergency response, spread costs and share infrastructure. She stressed that while policy arguments are very important, even the most compelling arguments do not trump the law. She went on to explain how section 337(f) of the communications act requires that the "sole or primary purpose" of public safety services must be to protect life, health or property, and that parties should explain how the FCC could allow secondary use consistent with this limiting language in the statute. She clarified that section 337(f)(1)(B) also requires the licensees must be governmental entities or nongovernmental entities that are authorized by a public safety entity and that parties should explain how to ensure that such authorizations that are obtained are legitimate. She informed the audience that section 337(f) requires the public safety services be made commercially available to the public and that parties should explain how commercial arrangements comport with this language. Finally, she described that section 337(a) allocates 36 MHz for commercial services and 24 MHz for public safety services and that parties should explain how allowing access to the 24 MHz of public safety spectrum by commercial entities can be accomplished consistent with the limiting language in the statute. Olsen closed by reiterating her plea to refresh the record for the legal and factual support to support secondary access to the 700 MHz spectrum.

FCC Invites Comments on Federal Spectrum Bands for Broadband Use

The FCC has put out a public notice asking for comments on how it can best collaborate with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to allocate more spectrum for wireless broadband. It has specifically requested information on frequency bands 1695-1710 MHz, 3550-3650 MHz, 1755-1850 MHz, 4200-4220 MHz, 4380-4400 MHz and the other Federal and shared-use bands that have been identified by NTIA as potential broadband spectrum. The FCC's questions concern the technical viability of the bands including how broadband could be deployed in each band, what condition would lead to effective deployment, what technologies could be deployed and if there is already equipment readily available, the best techniques for sharing the band with Federal users and whether or not sharing might even be feasible etc.

DOE To Announce FOA on Smart Grid Consumer Engagement

The Department of Energy has released a Notice of Intent (NOI) about a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) on Smart Grid Consumer Engagement. The FOA is expected to be released around April 15 (subject to Congressional appropriations). DOE is looking to award projects that create sustainable consumer engagement programs on both community, and state/regional levels. The aim of this FOA is to enhance the awareness and knowledge of smart grid attributes and its benefits for consumers, as well as strengthen consumer voices in smart grid development and implementation to enhance overall value of smart grid to consumers. For more information, read the NOI at http://www.netl.doe.gov/business/solicitations/2011/NOI_511.pdf

New Cyber Bill Would Create National Office for Cybersecurity, Give DHS Authority for Protection of Critical Infrastructure

Bipartisan legislation to create a National Office for Cyberspace in the White House was introduced in the House of Representatives today by Rep. James Langevin (D-RI). The bill is co- sponsored by Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), C.A. Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). Additionally, the legislation would also require agencies to undertake automated and continuous monitoring of their systems to ensure compliance and identify deficiencies and potential risks caused by cyber incidents or threats to an agency's information technology assets. The bill also looks to grant the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to protect critical infrastructure, calling on the Secretary of DHS to coordinate the protection of critical infrastructure. This bill would clarify this authority to include the creation, verification and enforcement of measures with respect to the protection of the information systems that control critical infrastructure. However, it does not give DHS control over private systems rather it but allows the agency to establish risk-informed security practices and standards for critical infrastructure. The Secretary of DHS would determine what critical infrastructure should fall under cyber regulation and receive new protections developed between industry and government, recognizing that not every part of our critical infrastructure is as vulnerable to cyber threats as is the power grid. Further, it would aim to strengthen public-private partnerships for critical infrastructure by requiring the DHS to coordinate between the other agencies, in consultation with the appropriate private sector entities and operators that are also affected. The legislation is similar to the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2011, a bill introduced in February by the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

FCC ERIC PSAC Meets/UTC Criticizes FCC for Excluding Utilities

UTC was in attendance at the first meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Emergency Response Interoperability Council Public Safety Advisory Committee (ERIC PSAC) held this week which mainly dealt with organizational issues. During the meeting, the ERIC PSAC formed working groups in four main areas and assigned representatives and chairs to each of the WG's. Read more »

AT&T to Buy T-Mobile for $39B; Implications for LTE, Tower and D-Block Issues

The nation’s second largest mobile wireless provider AT&T announced yesterday a $39 billion cash and stock transaction deal to buy third-ranked mobile carrier T-Mobile, a move that would vault AT&T to the top slot of wireless companies with a combined market share of around 44%. Upon the deal’s completion, the U.S. commercial wireless market will be dominated by two companies, Verizon and AT&T, which will lay claim to more than a combined 70% market share.

Although the ramifications of the deal for the utility industry are still emerging, at first blush the merger could increase the availability of LTE service, reduce the number of towers and collocation sites that the two separate carriers now use and alter the dynamics of the ongoing debate surrounding the 700 MHz D Block of spectrum. In addition, utilities could be able to negotiate cellular service contracts with AT&T that cover wider geographic expanses than is currently the case even though the reduced competition might alter the price, terms and conditions of those contracts. Read more »

Utilities Oppose Regulated Rates for ILEC Pole Attachments, PEPCO CEO Expresses Safety/Reliability Concerns

In several different ex parte filings during the last week at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), UTC and other electric utility industry groups opposed FCC expansion of pole attachment regulation of ILEC pole attachment rates. UTC explained that giving regulated rates for ILEC attachments would be “contrary to the statute and congressional intent and would undermine critical infrastructure by abrogating joint use agreements that are fundamentally based upon cost sharing and parity of pole ownership.” This followed filings by the Alliance for Fair Pole Attachment Rules (including, American Electric Power Service Corporation, Duke Energy Corporation, Entergy Services, Inc., Florida Power & Light Company, Progress Energy, and Southern Company) and the Edison Electric Institute, which focused their opposition on regulated rates for ILECs. The Alliance quoted the FCC’s own determination in 1998 that ILECs have “no rights” under Section 224 with respect to the poles of other utilities, and EEI contradicted carrier claims that Section 224(b) provides regulated rates for ILECs as “providers of telecommunications services” even though Section 224(a)(5) excludes ILECs as “telecommunications carriers” for purposes of pole attachments.

Most recently, PEPCO CEO Joseph Rigby filed a letter with the FCC expressing safety and reliability concerns, stating that “[w]hile I fully support the National Broadband Plan’s goal of improving our communications infrastructure to make low-cost, high speed Internet available to all Americans, I want to be certain that this does not come at the expense of critical infrastructure. He explained that “our electric grid is a complex system that – although resilient – remains susceptible to factors beyond a utility’s control ranging from the weather to the strain or unauthorized attachments.” He urged the FCC to “consider these concerns carefully and ensure protections are in place to guarantee that critical electric infrastructure is not compromised by promoting attachments without adequate resources to mitigate this new strain on utility systems.”

     
   

 
     

 

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