UTC to host 700 MHz workshop
Utilities officials will discuss the potential for public/private partnerships that would allow the utility sector to access the nationwide 700 MHz broadband network being built for public safety during a Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) workshop tomorrow morning.
Utilities have been seeking additional airwaves that would serve as the spectral foundation for broadband communications networks that would enable smart-grid applications such as sophisticated remote monitoring and control applications that would increase utility efficiencies and customer convenience. While utilities have sought spectrum in various band, many industry experts believe sharing the 700 MHz with public safety may be the best opportunity for the sector.
Meanwhile, many industry observers believe partnerships between utilities and public safety is logical, because public safety has the spectrum utilities need, while utilities can provide the users, revenue streams and infrastructure that would allow the public-safety network to be built and maintained more economically.
Brett Kilbourne, UTC’s deputy general counsel and vice president of government and industry affairs, said there is little information about how partnerships could be forged from the federal level, because the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board that will oversee the network deployment has not been established yet. UTC officials have been in discussions with the Association of Public-Safety Officials (APCO), but it is “too early” in the process to assess progress, he said.
One of the challenges for utilities is reaching consensus on key issues associated with potential partnerships with public safety, because few believe that the FirstNet board will be willing to negotiate individual deals with each utility. Kilbourne said he believes some strides are being made in this area.
“I think they [utility officials] are coming together more, but I think it’s still a work in progress,” Kilbourne said. “We’re making headway, and it looks like we’ll have a good amount of time to work through these issues. We’re trying to be ahead of the curve.”
Utility issues surrounding potential partnerships to gain access to the 700 MHz public-safety network will be the focus of a UTC workshop tomorrow morning at the headquarters of PEPCO, a utility that serves the Washington, D.C., region.