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The National Broadband Plan: Driving Innovation and Investment in the Clean Energy Economy

September 16th, 2010 by Admin User

 Phoebe Yang Remarks

"The National Broadband Plan: Driving Innovation and Investment in the Clean Energy Economy"

1st Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Smart Grid Communications (SmartGridComm)

Gaithersburg, MD
October 5, 2010
 
Good morning. I’m thrilled to be here with all of you this morning at the inaugural edition of SmartGridComm – it’s a forum that hasn’t existed in the past, but needed to, and I think it’s going to be the venue for sharing and learning about Smart Grid communications for years to come.
 
I’d like to thank Dr. George Arnold of NIST for that warm introduction and for extending to me the invitation to join you today. Dr. Arnold worked closely with our energy team at the FCC, headed up by my colleague Nick Sinai, as we developed the energy recommendations in the National Broadband Plan. George is a tireless advocate – for the Smart Grid; for the power of standards; and for the role of government in making the standards development process work better. NIST is lucky to have him.
 

Open Standards

 
And I want to thank many of you in the audience who are members of IEEE for the work you’ve done to establish technical standards that have helped drive more pervasive wireless connectivity in the United States today. From the 802.11 standards that have made Wi-Fi indispensable to students and small businesspeople, to the 802.15 standards that are enabling low-power mesh networking, to the 802.16 standards that undergird WiMAX deployments across the country, your work has shaped how Americans connect with their fellow citizens.
 
And as you all know far better than I, IEEE members are at the forefront of developing the interoperability standards that will drive the future of the Smart Grid, like GE’s John McDonald, an IEEE Fellow who chairs the Smart Grid interoperability panel. 
 
We at the FCC recognize that open standards are a powerful force driving innovation and investment in the broadband ecosystem. Open standards allow manufacturers to achieve greater economies of scale, driving down the cost of devices and leading to larger product markets. And by opening the technical review process to a much larger group of people, open standards can enable stronger security.
 
But we also know that open standards alone are not enough; They need to be paired with policy.  We need policies that accelerate the harmonization of standards, and policies that encourage these standards to be used. Just as a sculptor needs clay before she can produce a statue, technical innovators need the “raw materials” of broadband connectivity – like spectrum – before they can go to work creating the technologies of tomorrow. 
 
The importance of getting the standards and policy right is an especially significant lesson as policymakers, standards bodies, utilities, and other stakeholders work together to spur the deployment of Smart Grid communications networks. And it was a lesson that we kept firmly in mind as we at the FCC developed the country’s first national broadband plan. 
 
A Brief Word on the National Broadband Plan
 
In the Recovery Act, Congress called on the FCC to craft a plan to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and to integrate broadband into certain sectors of our economy that serve national purposes, including health care, education – and energy. The National Broadband Plan, released on March 16 of this year, laid out a comprehensive set of 207 recommendations on how we can improve the broadband ecosystem in the United States – everything from increasing the investment the United States makes in high-risk, high-reward R&D to building a nationwide, interoperable public safety wireless network.
 
The recommendations were designed to improve the broadband ecosystem as a whole, but several of them will, if acted upon, have a particular impact on the state of Smart Grid communications.
 

Spectrum Policy

 

First and foremost are our recommendations about spectrum. Freeing up more spectrum – licensed, lightly licensed, and unlicensed, for fixed and mobile broadband – is at the heart of the Plan’s efforts to promote competition and faster, more effective networks.
 
The centerpiece of the Plan is our recommendation that the Executive Branch free up 500 MHz of spectrum for broadband use by the year 2020. This spectrum will enhance broadband competition for consumers, help make America the leader in mobile innovation, and provide more options for Smart Grid communications. Whether these are commercial or private utility networks, licensed or unlicensed networks – or some combination, spectrum will provide more options for a reliable and secure smart grid.
 
In June, we were pleased to see that President Obama directed NTIA and other federal agencies to create a plan by October 1 for making 500 MHz of spectrum available over the next ten years, which was consistent with the recommendation in the National Broadband Plan. We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with NTIA once the plan is released.
 
As we take steps at the FCC to ensure that spectrum is used efficiently, we are particularly excited about the unanimous order, just two weeks ago, to free up spectrum in the “TV white spaces” between broadcast television channels on an unlicensed basis. When we made this announcement, understandably, the media’s focus was on how the release of this spectrum could spur new markets in consumer devices. The release of “junk band” spectrum over 20 years ago for unlicensed use led to baby monitors, cordless phones and eventually Wi-Fi. Many commenters suggested that the TV white spaces would lead to “Super Wi-Fi” networks that provide greater range, better coverage inside buildings and increased capacity for consumers and businesses.
 
But we at the FCC also think that the white spaces can be a valuable option for Smart Grid communications. Already, we’ve seen Spectrum Bridge, Google and the Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative successfully conduct the first Smart Grid network trial utilizing white spaces spectrum. In the trial, Plumas-Sierra was able to use white spaces spectrum effectively and securely for grid automation applications – while also offering a retail broadband service at the same time. And this was all done in an area with challenging terrain in the rural California and Nevada mountains, where other wireless approaches did not satisfy performance requirements.
 
Certainly white spaces spectrum is not the only Smart Grid solution. As both our Chairman, Julius Genachowski, and George Arnold have said, there will need to be a variety of communications options for the Smart Grid, given differences in the types of applications, required data throughput, reliability, security, and other factors. But as we look forward to more trials like Plumas-Sierra’s and larger white spaces Smart Grid deployments in the months and years to come, we are confident that white spaces is good for the Smart Grid.
 
Even as we pursue these changes, it’s equally important that we recognize existing FCC policies that are already spurring innovation and investment in the Smart Grid. For example, the FCC’s creation of unlicensed spectrum bands at 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz has brought a tremendous set of options to the Smart Grid. Today, many meter-reading networks and other Smart Grid platform networks are being built in these bands. In addition, the structure of the FCC’s Part 15 rules, in which a device manufacturer simply has to certify that a device meets basic technical rules, has spurred innovation in a variety of devices that can be used in Smart Grid communications.
 
The FCC’s “lightly licensed” rules at 3.65 GHz have also made this band attractive to utilities building out private WiMAX networks. For instance, Oklahoma Gas & Electric is using $130 million in Recovery Act funds awarded by the Department of Energy to build out its Smart Grid communications system in 3.65.
 
And choices the FCC has made about licensed spectrum have also helped. For example, because of the 2009 DTV transition, which cleared operations from the 700 MHz band, 4G commercial deployments are now ramping up, providing better coverage, faster speeds, and lower latencies than previously available.
 
The remarkable thing about this litany of policy choices is that few, if any of them, were made with Smart Grid communications directly in mind. And I think the lesson to take away from this for spectrum policy is one of humility and flexibility. All of you are working hard to design networks for specific applications and making certain architectural assumptions, but just as the ways that consumers use spectrum have evolved, the Smart Grid and smart home will evolve and make use of spectrum in new ways. None of us has a crystal ball for what these things will look like in 15 years; and if you do, you’ve probably taken that ball to Wall Street by now. What I can assure you is that the FCC remains committed to making more spectrum available and to incorporating additional flexibility and adaptability into spectrum policy.
 

Energy Policy

 

Of course, not all the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan that impact the Smart Grid focus on spectrum. We devoted an entire chapter of the Plan to the importance of integrating broadband into the ways we deliver, use and make energy in America. And the recommendations we made had two thrusts: integrating broadband into the Smart Grid, and unleashing private capital in the cause of energy innovation.
 
While designing the Plan, we held discussions with a wide variety of stakeholders, including electric utilities, and two things were clear. First of all, utilities will need broadband, not just narrowband solutions; and second, there is no single answer to provide that connectivity. So our plan took a multi-pronged approach to ensuring a broadband-enabled Smart Grid.
 
To ensure that utilities had a wide variety of options for meeting their Smart Grid communications needs, the National Broadband Plan proposed that states take a more active role in reducing impediments and financial disincentives to utilities using commercial service providers for their Smart Grid needs.
 
Broadband networks also need to be secure and resilient. We’re doing our part on helping make commercial broadband networks more reliable and appropriate for smart grid communications. In April, the FCC launched a proceeding, as recommended in the Plan, to explore the survivability of commercial broadband communications networks. Simultaneous failure of, or damage to, several IP network facilities or routers could affect a large amount of commercial traffic. If utilities are going to use commercial facilities for Smart Grid applications, they need to be assured the networks will work, especially in times of emergency.
 
Of course, private utility networks will continue to play an important role in the Smart Grid, and the federal government should continue to promote standards through NIST, DOE, and FERC. And we need to be thinking creatively about joint ventures between public safety and critical infrastructure – there is definitely opportunity for win-win solutions here. 
 
Finally, although government’s understanding of Smart Grid needs is rapidly improving, decision-makers need better information to craft better policy. So the Plan recommended that the Department of Energy undertake a detailed study of the communications requirements of electric utilities and consumer data accessibility policies. Those studies are underway, thanks to the leadership of Scott Harris and many others at DOE, and we look forward to seeing the results once they come out.
 
Integrating broadband and other advanced communications into the Smart Grid is an important end in itself. But I want to call your attention to something that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention: retail broadband networks can be combined with smart grid networks in a way that has powerful effects on local communities.
 
Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a perfect example. In Chattanooga, the Electric Power Board, or EPB, got a $112 million Recovery Act grant to build a fiber-to-the-home network for all 170,000 of its utility customers. The fiber network will be used for smart grid, smart meter, and retail broadband services. Because of this Recovery Act grant, EPB will be able to build an integrated network faster.
 
In addition to more reliable electric power, Chattanooga citizens can get up to 1 gig service directly to their house or business. That’s right, a combination smart grid-retail broadband network is the first one to offer consumers 1 gig in this country. And although the network won’t be complete until the end of the year, Chattanooga is already seeing large business expansion and small business relocation. Customers are saying that having access to a high performance fiber network is a significant factor of their decision to expand in or relocate to the area.
 
Let me talk about the other thrust of our energy recommendations – energy innovation. The Plan found that one of the most important ways to enable energy innovation, was to unlock energy information. The Plan recommended that consumers should have secure, non-discriminatory access to, and control of, their own digital energy information.
 
We feel strongly that this information should include data directly from smart meters, as well as and historical price, consumption and billing data over the Internet. All data, regardless of source, should be provided in standardized, machine-readable formats so that consumer-approved applications and services can analyze and act on this information. And customers should have access to their data at the same level of granularity at which it was collected, and in as close to real time as possible.
 
As my colleague Nick Sinai often says, if we’re really going to build a clean energy economy, and use the power of private investment capital, then we’re going need ferocious competition on the consumer side of the meter. Let’s let the market compete for a wide variety of in-home and in-building energy information and management services.
 
How do we do this? By providing policies that support a consumer’s right to access to their own energy data – in formats that use national open standards – and combining that with high performance broadband in the home. Data plus standards plus connectivity is the equation that will enable a broad range of innovative companies, including communications service providers, small startups and utilities, to complete on a level playing field in the home.
 
And if the Plan’s recommendations to the country help – in some small way – to satisfy this equation, we will be humbled to have been a part of the solution. 
 
As we launch proceedings coming out of these recommendations, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback through our comment process at fcc.gov. The more technical guidance you can provide us, the more impactful and effective the rules that ultimately come out of the rulemaking process will be.
 

Closing

 
The FCC’s efforts to enable and improve Smart Grid communications are just one part of the solution we will need to ensure a smart, cost-effective, and secure electric grid in the 21st century. As you in this hall know better than just about anyone, building the Smart Grid will continue to be a technologically challenging and expensive endeavor. But ultimately, it is an endeavor as worthy of our collective national efforts as the interstate highway system.
 
Reflecting on the creation of the interstate highway system in his memoirs, its champion, President Dwight Eisenhower wrote that “more than any single action by the government since the end of the war, this one would change the face of America . . . Its impact on the American economy—the jobs it would produce in manufacturing and construction, the rural areas it would open up—was beyond calculation.”
 
These words were undoubtedly true of the interstate highway system. But I believe they will be equally true of our collective efforts to build out broadband and the smart grid across America in the years and decades to come. New construction of the interstate highway system has largely sunsetted in the United States today. But with the Smart Grid, we stand at a remarkable, and promising, dawn.
 
Thank you.
 

 



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