Neha Shah's blog

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Full Summary of Net Neutrality Rules And Impact on Utilities - Now Available For UTC Members

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

Utility-Public Safety Partnerships Boost Deployment and Reliability of Public Safety Broadband Networks

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.

FERC Announces Standards Technical Conference on 1/31

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 »

Tax Deal Includes Extension of Federal Treasury Grant Program for Solar and Wind Projects

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.

FCC Adopts Technical Interoperability Rules for Public Safety 700 MHz Systems

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:

  • - Construct networks that support Long Term Evolution (LTE) interfaces that support roaming and interoperability;
  • - Construct networks that provide outdoor coverage at minimum data rates of 256 Kbps uplink and 768 Kbps downlink for all types of devices throughout the cell coverage area;
  • - Provide 95 percent reliability of signal coverage for all services and applications throughout the network;
  • - Conduct conformance testing on devices to ensure compliance with technical requirements associated with 3GPP Release 8 (LTE) and higher release standards;
  • - Perform interoperability testing of the LTE interfaces to determine their roaming capabilities and make sure that these capabilities are sufficient;
  • - Build security and encryption features into their networks based on certain optional features of the 3GPP security features for LTE Network Access Domain;
  • - Allow to use permanent fixed point-to-point and point-to-multipoint stations only on an ancillary basis and on a non-interference basis to the primary mobile operations; and
  • - Coordinate with one another when their networks overlap or operate adjacent to one another to avoid signal/spectral interference or disruption to communications.

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.

Wikileaks' Cables Reveal and Raise Doubts about U.S. Security

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 »

Upton and King Confirmed as Chairs of House Commerce and Homeland Security Committees

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.

Republican Control May Mean Trouble for D-Block Allocation and No Funds for Renewable Energy and Smart Grid

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.

NERC Issues AURORA Vulnerability Alert, Provides New Information To Mitigate Threat to Bulk Power System

Since the incident in June 2007, the NERC AURORA Technical Team has been working with subject matter experts in the federal community, and has now highlighted detailed engineering data and new understandings of the issue. The mitigation elements that have been recommended fall into two broad categories: Protection and Control Engineering Practices and Electronic and Physical Security Mitigation Measures. NERC has now completed a technical library that entities can use to understand the complexities of AURORA at an engineering level, and made the access and availability of that information a priority.

Utility Private Networks Blasted As Expensive and Inefficient by SmartSynch

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 »

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