• As stated above, at its November 30 Open Meeting, the FCC will consider whether four sets of frequencies between 413 MHz and 457 MHz can be used by Medical Micropower Networks (MMNS) that link sensors implanted in patients who suffer from various forms of paralysis. One intended purpose of MMNS is to transmit movement commands from a sensor on a patient’s spinal cord to implants that electrically stimulate nerves. Today, some patients have networks of microstimulators linked by wires implanted underneath their skin. This requires two or three days of operations and can lead to infections. Wireless networks would allow doctors to cease using that technique.

MMNS uses very low frequencies in order to communicate with implants through the patient’s skin. The same wireless technology might be used in the future to restore sight or hearing. Some broadcast engineers are fighting the proposed rules, saying TV and radio stations already use one of the bands to broadcast live from news events and this might interfere with the body networks. The main proponent of MMNS, the nonprofit Alfred Mann Foundation, says tests have proved that these systems can cope with interference as long as all four blocks of spectrum are available. If approved, the rules would go into effect as soon as they are published in the Federal Register.

  • On November 21, 2011, PG&E asked the California Public Utilities Commission for approval to begin work on six new smart grid pilot projects that will have a total cost of $109 million over four years. These projects will include the installation of smart grid line sensors that will improve communications for grid outage detection as well as enable grid system monitoring and control. PG&E is seeking to recover the costs of these projects through increases in electricity rates.
  • On November 8, 2011, the Department of Energy released its “Smart Grid Data Access” Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) that will provide up to $8 million to promote partnerships between utilities and third-party technology innovators for the development and implementation of applications that provide access to electricity consumption data. The FOA will have two phases, with funding applications due March 1, 2012. More information is available here.