As previously reported, the FCC's recently adopted net neutrality rules should have no direct impact on the kinds of communications services that utilities purchase from communications companies. UTC has now compiled a full summary of the rules and the subsequent efforts challenging them in an exclusive analysis for UTC members only.
For more information, contact Cynthia Brumfield, UTC Director of Research, or Brett Kilbourne, UTC Deputy Counsel, at email@example.com.
UTC filed an ex parte notice in response to T-Mobile’s ex parte filing in FCC PS Docket No. 06-229, and countering T-Mobile's overreaching arguments. Specifically, UTC stated that public safety partnerships with utilities do not show that public safety already has enough spectrum to meet its needs, or that public safety lacks resources to build out their own broadband networks or that it is necessarily feasible for public safety to share spectrum with commercial service providers. Instead, UTC reiterated that the FCC should promote partnerships between public safety and utilities in order to unleash synergies which will promote emergency communications by accelerating the deployment of 700 MHz public safety broadband networks and by enabling interoperability between utilities and public safety during emergencies.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has announced a technical conference to determine whether the five groups of standards posted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are ready for a FERC rulemaking proceeding. Read more »
When President Obama signs the $858 billion tax package that was passed by Congress, he will also be giving a one-year extension of a popular incentive program for renewable energy projects. The Treasury program, also known as 1603 Treasury cash grants, covers up to 30% of the cost of alternative energy projects and was due to expire on December 31. According to some industry analysts, it has supported more than 100,000 jobs and $18 billion in investment for thousands of installations.
Late last week, the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) adopted an Order that establishes a technical framework to ensure interoperability among 700 MHz public safety mobile broadband networks in states, counties and cities that are approved for early deployment. Under the baseline technical framework the FCC will:
The technical framework is important for utilities and other critical infrastructure industries to understand and recognize as they consider partnering with public safety entities to jointly build out and operate 700 MHz broadband networks.
Among the leaked diplomatic cables and documents released by WikiLeaks is a secret list of infrastructure-related facilities and topics whose loss or attack by terrorists could "critically impact" U.S. security in the view of the State Department. According to CNN, the list mentions dams close to the U.S. border and a telecommunications hub whose destruction might seriously disrupt global communications. Read more »
The U.S. House of Representatives has confirmed Fred Upton (R-MI) as the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Peter King (R-NY) as the Chair of the Homeland Security Committee.
In a recent op-ed in POLITICO, Upton called for energy security to be a priority for the upcoming Congress. He also pushed for oil-drilling in the controversial Arctic National Wildlife Range (ANWR) in Alaska and for deploying more nuclear plants. To that end, Upton has fully supported the American Energy Act (H.R. 2846) which calls for licensing 100 new nuclear reactors over the next 20 years. Upton advocated diversifying the national energy portfolio which would also include pushing more coal, natural gas and renewables.
High on Rep. King's agenda is cybersecurity and strengthening public safety communications. King is the main sponsor of H.R. 5081, Broadband for First Responders Act, which calls for allocating the 700 MHz D-Block for public safety and first responders. King is also looking to pass a comprehensive cybersecurity bill that would authorize the Department of Homeland Security with necessary guidance tools and power to penalize non-compliant entities and direct threats to national security. King expects his efforts to bolster national cybersecurity by fortifying the defenses of federal networks and promoting partnerships with the private sector to protect against cyberattacks.
The Democrats lost control of the House in the 2010 Mid-Term elections held this week, with Republicans winning at least 60 seats formerly held by Democrats. During the upcoming 24-day Lame Duck session to be convened later this month to take care of unfinished business from the 111th Congress, it is expected that only "must do" action items - like funding the government and extending the Bush tax cuts - will see any action. There is still a possibility that the GRID Act (to enhance the cybersecurity of the bulk power grid) and the Spectrum Inventory Act (posting critical infrastructure licensing information on a publically-accessible website) may be brought up for consideration. However, it is highly unlikely any action will be taken on Renewal Energy Standards (RES) or comprehensive cybersecurity bills.
The election results sent a resounding message to the lawmakers that they should focus on reducing the national debt and growing the economy, not more government programs and deficit spending. Such an atmosphere could potentially threaten efforts to allocate the 700 D to Public Safety because of the loss of auction revenue. Further, no more money is likely to be appropriated for renewable energy efforts or smart grid.
A surprise shift in power was seen in the loss of VA Congressman Rick Boucher, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, to Republican Morgan Griffith. This will have a significant effect on the committee as Boucher has been a strong figure on telecommunications and technology legislation. While Committee assignments and chair appointments will not be finalized until sometime in January, Reps. Barton (TX), Upton (MI) and Shimkus (IL) have all been mentioned as possible chairs of the Energy and Commerce Committee. UTC will continue to provide members updates on these results and the impact on the committees and pending legislation.
The North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC) is requiring that members of the bulk power system implement protections against a vulnerability that could be exploited to cause physical damage to critical systems that provide electricity. Specifically, NERC has issued a recommendation to the industry on the AURORA vulnerability which provides new sensitive and clarifying information regarding the nature of AURORA. The recommendation requires entities to report on efforts and progress by Dec. 13, with updates every six months until mitigation is complete. Read more »
Utilities are misleading their consumers by choosing to operate their own private networks, said SmartSynch’s Chief Marketing Officer, Campbell McCool. He added that he had spoken with regulators about utilities’ poor decision to have private networks and stated that they were neither cost-effective nor efficient because it was not the utility’s business to be operating private communications networks.
Mr. McCool was speaking at a GridWeek media roundtable discussion on the use of private versus public networks for utilities. Most panelists agreed that there was room for both a private utility network and services offered by public communication providers in deploying smart grid applications. However, Mr. McCool wholeheartedly disagreed with any role for utility networks at all, including within smart grid operations. There were no utility or public wireless carrier representatives on the panel. Read more »