Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski did an hour-long Q&A at GigaOM HQ with GigaOM founder Om Malik and senior writer Stacey Higginbotham, in which they tackled issues like the lack of telecom competition and how to foster innovation in the broadband ecosystem. While Genachowski only briefly touched on the electric grid during his talk, after the session I asked him what the FCC would be doing when it comes to the smart grid.
Genachowski said that the FCC is looking closely at how it will work with the smart grid, and very shortly the FCC will be announcing how it will incorporate the smart grid into the National Broadband Plan. How soon? The National Broadband Plan is supposed to be released to Congress next month — on February 17 — according to the FCC’s web site on the subject, Broadband.gov, so for now we’ll have to wait until then for the official word. “Stay tuned,” Genachowski told me. Update: Om reports Thursday that the National Broadband Plan is getting delayed by a month.
More specifically I asked him if the FCC is considering the idea to allocate wireless spectrum — which during his talk he called the life blood of the mobile industry — specifically for utilities to use for smart grid services. Trade groups like the Utilities Telecom Council and power producers like AEP have been calling for the FCC to give them wireless spectrum that is would be restricted or off limits to companies that are not offering power and smart grid services. Genachowski told me that the FCC is reviewing that idea very closely.
The FCC has only been looking hard at smart grid issues for several months, as it looks to address the market in its National Broadband Plan (the deadline of which was determined in the stimulus package). Back in August of 2009 the FCC hired Nick Sinai, a former VC at Tenaya Capital (Lehman Brothers Venture Partners) and Polaris Ventures, to become its Energy and Environmental Director. Sinai’s goal is to lead a team that focuses on how broadband infrastructure and policies can support national energy and environmental goals, with an emphasis on the smart grid.