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A compilation of posts from NRTC’s blog, Rural Connect.

DoE Award Results in NRTC Strategic Grid Security Partnership

By Doug Lambert, NRTC director, Technical Solutions

NRTC introduced the MultiSpeak® “Secure Protocol Enterprise Access Kit” (MS-SPEAK) security project to the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to formulate a highly significant security solution for the smart grid. The NRTC/DoE partnership recently was awarded $1.65 million of the overall $220 million “Grid Modernization Initiative.”

Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz states, “Modernizing the U.S. electrical grid is essential to reducing carbon emissions, creating safeguards against attacks on our infrastructure, and keeping the lights on.”

I will be on hand in the NRTC booth (#735) to offer more information about MS-SPEAK during the upcoming TechAdvantage Expo in New Orleans, Feb. 15-17.

NRTC’s MS-SPEAK is an approach to improve interoperability and cybersecurity between systems in a way that will also reduce costs for the utility. The project is spread over three years wherein a mature industry product will enable additional protocols and operational security.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

NRTC Annual Meeting to Focus on New Technology Solutions

February is annual meeting month for NRTC and its members. As usual, NRTC will hold its annual meeting in two parts, beginning on Sunday, Feb. 14, with the meeting for electric cooperatives during the NRECA Annual Meeting/TechAdvantage Conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA. Just a week later, the meeting for rural telcos on Monday, Feb. 22, takes place at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL, concurrent with NRTC’s Rural Telecom Industry Meeting & Expo (RTIME).

The highlight for both ends of the annual meeting will be the report by NRTC CEO Tim Bryan. The address will include in-depth examinations of NRTC’s latest technology directions with the emphasis on the need to take a different approach toward new and old rural utility challenges

NRTC’s booth at the TechAdvantage Expo (#735) will expand on many of the themes in Bryan’s speech. Three stations in the booth will cover NRTC’s highest technology priorities for 2016: smart grid solutions, distributed generation and broadband infrastructure. NRTC solution partners OATI, Exacter, SoCore Energy and Pulse Broadband will have representatives at the stations. Sensus and Clevest booths will be nearby.

The easy-to-spot NRTC booth at the RTIME Expo (#315) will be one of the largest on the floor. Like the TechAdvantage booth, it will feature the three top NRTC technology interests: video, wireless and network management solutions. The video section will feature NRTC’s well-established IPTV solution, TelcoVideo, as well as its innovative TV Everywhere and over-the-top offerings. NeoNova and Telispire subsidiaries also will be on hand.

After the Bryan speech, NRTC will begin the business portion of the meeting. Four incumbent NRTC board members are standing unopposed for reelection.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

National Mutual Aid Registry Launches Feb. 15

NRTC and Clevest have announced that their joint program, the National Mutual Aid Registry (NMAR) will begin operations on Feb. 15. The launch date coincides with NRECA’s TechAdvantage Conference and Expo in New Orleans. NRTC and Clevest will host a launch event at TechAdvantage on Feb. 15, at 1:30-3 p.m. in room 335/336 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

The cloud-based program provides members with visibility into the location of contractor and mutual aid crews to help utilities coordinate requests for mutual aid assistance during weather emergencies. The two companies have been working with members to plan and develop NMAR for more than a year, and are currently winding down a round of beta testing that began in November 2015.

“We were very fortunate to have 93 utilities help during the beta testing,” said Gary LaPointe, Clevest product marketing manager, during a well-attended information webinar on January 28 where several utility and statewide associations participated in an active discussion. “Our beta goal was to make sure we heard from the participants and refine the program. The last three months have helped us determine how it is used, and find out what’s useful and what needs to be changed.”

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

No Surprise: FCC Again Determines That Broadband Is Spreading too Slowly in Section 706 Report

Technically the FCC declares the state of broadband progress in its regular Section 706 reports to Congress where it announces whether broadband service is reaching all Americans in “a reasonable and timely fashion.” The Commission presented that report at its monthly agenda meeting on Jan. 28. But well before the meeting, most observers already knew: the Commission, as it has in recent years, would answer in the negative.

Chairman Tom Wheeler released a “fact sheet” two weeks before the meeting summarizing the highlights of the report. “While the nation continues to make progress in broadband deployment, advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to all Americans,” Wheeler concluded.

Among the findings from the fact sheet, 39 percent of the population in rural areas did not have access to broadband service at 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream as of 2014. That is an improvement from 53 percent in 2013 and 55 percent in 2012. Just 4 percent lacked access to 25 Mbps broadband in urban areas in 2014 and 10 percent in the nation overall.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect; also see “Republican Senators Question FCC Broadband Benchmarks.”

Satellite Technology Continues to Excel in Measuring Broadband America Report

The latest figures from the FCC continue to show that satellite broadband technology meets and goes beyond advertised speed performance. According to the 2015 Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report, ViaSat’s Exede broadband service outperformed its advertised 12 Mbps downstream data rate 110 percent of the time. The figures also show that Exede outperformed its advertised 3 Mbps upstream speed by 170 percent, the highest average among the 13 fixed broadband providers participating in the testing.

This is the third of five Measuring Broadband America reports in which the FCC has tested satellite broadband speeds next to fixed wireline providers. Exede consistently outperformed wireline ISPs in terms of actual speed compared to advertised speed in the previous two reports released in February 2013 and June 2014. The new report includes data from ViaSat’s satellite broadband rival, Hughes Network Systems, for the first time. It also performed well in comparison to wireline providers based on its advertised speeds of 10 Mbps and 5 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.

The FCC’s report is actually a bit tardy. The 2015 report is based on speed tests from September 2014. The highest advertised speeds in its trials at that time were 100 Mbps. “Some participating ISPs offer faster service tiers than shown here, but if their number of subscribers is small, they are not analyzed herein,” the report said. Future reports will begin to measure the emergence of fiber gigabit consumer services that will continue to expand coverage in 2016.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

Highlights From CES 2016

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Jan. 6-9, again featured more significant and fun new technologies than we can cover in a short space. Here are a few, however, that caught our eye.

HaLow to Be Unlicensed Wireless Tie to IoT
The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry association of manufacturers producing Wi-Fi equipment, is introducing a new brand name, Wi-Fi HaLow. A new line of low-power, unlicensed devices is designed to connect the Internet of Things (IoT) in a home setting and also could represent a low-cost alternative to current industrial M2M systems based on licensed wireless links.

The widely successful Wi-Fi family of technologies began with the original IEEE 802.11 standard for wireless local area networks in the 1990s. Over the years, the various updates of 802.11 have provided low-cost ways to access broadband Internet over short distances. Wi-Fi HaLow, based on the 802.11ah standard, instead transmits lower-power wireless signals at lower speed in order to expand the coverage of unlicensed wireless signals and reach IoT devices that do not require broadband speeds.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

AT&T Plans IoT Devices to Assist Utility Operations
AT&T used the CES stage to share some of its IOT ideas, including plans for automated systems for utilities. “More than 70 percent of the U.S. electrical transmission system is over 25 years old and unpaid bills cost utilities $1 billion annually,” the company said in a report released at CES. “AT&T is working with companies to develop the next generation of IoT smart energy solutions to help the industry become more efficient.”

In addition to IoT systems for utility devices, AT&T also says that it is working on systems for related fleet management and “smart city” applications. Its report includes a case study about how it was able to improve safety through fleet management and save a company $86,000 annually in insurance costs.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

Bendable, Roll-up Video Screens Arrive
One of the sexy technologies that got a lot of attention at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas two years ago was organic light emitting diode (OLED) video screens. Manufacturers were beginning to introduce UHD displays that would bend inward to reduce glare. But that was a minor advancement. The real innovation was that eventually consumers would be able to bend, roll or fold future OLED screens as the technology advanced.

As of the 2016 CES, technology has advanced. Several publications reported South Korea’s LG demonstrations of a bendable 55-inch UHD display at the show. In addition, the company provided demonstrations of an 18-inch screen that can roll like a newspaper, which LG announced two years ago (see BBC video). At the same time, according to Engadget, LG has “another 55-inch display that can show two separate images on both sides [which makes it perfect for store signage].”

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.
 

If you have any comments or questions about NRTConnects, contact your NRTC regional business manager or write us at nrtconnects@nrtc.coop.


© 2016 NRTC
2121 Cooperative Way, Herndon, VA 20171
www.nrtc.coop

Our Mission

To lead and support our members by delivering technology solutions to strengthen member businesses, promote economic development and improve the quality of life in rural America.

In This Issue

DoE Award Results in NRTC Strategic Grid Security Partnership

NRTC Annual Meeting to Focus on New Technology Solutions

National Mutual Aid Registry Launches Feb. 15

No Surprise: FCC Again Determines That Broadband Is Spreading too Slowly in Section 706 Report

Satellite Technology Continues to Excel in Measuring Broadband America Report

Highlights From CES 2016

Supreme Court Allows FERC Regulation of Demand Response Pricing

TV and Mobile Industries Wait to Find Out Which Stations Are Participating in Incentive Auction

NRECA Continues to Fight FCC Ban on Automated Calls

Where You Can See NRTC

In Brief

Supreme Court Allows FERC Regulation of Demand Response Pricing

The United States Supreme Court last week found in favor of federal regulations to control pricing for electricity users participating in demand response programs. The 6-2 decision in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) v. Electric Power Supply Association, et al reversed and remanded an earlier decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that FERC did not have authority under the Federal Power Act (FPA) to regulate demand response programs. Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority, said that FERC has FPA authority to regulate demand response compensation for two main reasons: “First, the practices at issue directly affect wholesale rates. Second, FERC has not regulated retail sales. Taken together, these conclusions establish that the Rule complies with the FPA’s plain terms.”

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

TV and Mobile Industries Wait to Find Out Which Stations Are Participating in Incentive Auction

The FCC has yet to release the list of broadcast TV stations ceding portions of their 6 MHz licensed spectrum for the coming Incentive Auction. The deadline for stations to file their intentions to participate passed in mid-January. According to published reports, Commission officials have said they are “encouraged” by the response. The auction, scheduled to begin March 29, is significantly different from any spectrum auction the FCC has held to date. Broadcasters will receive a percentage of the sale of their former spectrum as an incentive to participate. The success of the auction depends on heavy participation by both TV broadcasters and wireless companies bidding on the spectrum. Under the complex rules the FCC adopted for the auction, broadcasters could potentially have an additional opportunity to offer spectrum.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect; also see Incentive Auction Could Be Cable TV’s Path to the Mobile Competition.

NRECA Continues to Fight FCC Ban on Automated Calls

Electric cooperatives have been getting complaints from their members in recent months as the utilities have slowly been phasing out automated customer calls in compliance with federal rules. Rural electrics often use the calls to provide updates on outage status and warn customers behind on payments that they are in danger of losing service. “Cooperative members have complained because they want to continue to receive these types of calls. The number of complaints highlights the importance of these communications to the recipients,” NRECA counsel said in an ex parte letter to the FCC. NRECA is still waiting for FCC action on a petition it filed a year ago for relief from Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) rules meant to prohibit automated nuisance calls to consumers.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

Where You Can See NRTC

• Feb. 2-4: Touchtone Energy’s New and Emerging Technologies Conference, Fort Meyers, FL
NRTC Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Greg Santoro will attend

• Feb. 9-11: Distributech Conference and Exhibition, Orlando, FL
NRTC Director, Sales-Electric Dick Martin will attend

• Feb. 11-19: NRECA Annual Meeting and TechAdvantage Expo, New Orleans, LA
NRTC staff will attend

• Feb. 14: NRTC Annual Meeting for electric cooperative members, New Orleans, LA
NRTC staff will attend

• Feb.21-24: RTIME Conference and Expo, Lake Buena Vista, FL
NRTC staff will attend

• Feb. 22: NRTC Annual Meeting for telephone company members, Lake Buena Vista, FL
NRTC staff will attend

• April 6-8: IP Vision Conference & Expo, Las Vegas, NV
NRTC staff will attend


See the NRTC Events page for more upcoming meetings.