November 20, 2009Administrative Law and Regulated Industries, Telecommunications Alerts
California Public Utilities Commission Meeting Summary - November 20, 2009
On November 20, 2009, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly scheduled agenda meeting. There were no telecommunications items addressed on the regular agenda, but there were several items of interest that were approved on the consent agenda, and several others that were held until future meetings. Items on the consent agenda also included a series of CASF "matching" funding grants, some of which were approved and some of which were held. These and other telecommunications items of interest on the Commission's agenda are discussed in further detail below.
REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS
URF Proceeding Closed
(Item 33, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision closes the Uniform Regulatory Framework (URF) proceeding (R.05-04-005). Although the main issues in the URF docket have been resolved for several months, Verizon had requested that the Commission clarify that there will be a procedural vehicle available to URF carriers to adjust the California requirement that certain ARMIS reports be provided based on developments at the federal level to remove some ARMIS requirements. This decision declines to adopt Verizon's suggestion, but notes that Verizon or another URF carrier may file a petition for modification or other appropriate vehicle to obtain relief from the ARMIS requirements if and when the FCC clarifies that those reports are no longer required. By this decision, the URF docket is closed, and any further developments on the ARMIS issue will have to be raised in petitions for modification, Commission applications, or petitions for rulemaking. The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
Ponderosa Cablevision's Auberry Project CASF Grant Approved to Provide Broadband Service in Unserved Areas of Fresno County
(Item 38, adopted on consent agenda) – This Resolution adopts contingent funding in the amount of $405,613 for Ponderosa Cablevision's (Ponderosa) Auberry Project, which will deliver service to 1,043 households covering a formerly-unserved 18.65 square mile area. Ponderosa plans to extend its DSL coverage into the proposed areas. The total project cost is $4,056,126, and 10% ($405,613) is being requested from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) as a match to Ponderosa's 80% ARRA fund request. The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
Siskiyou Telephone Company Granted $2,621,824 in CASF Funding for Seiad Underserved Broadband Project
(Item 42, adopted on consent agenda) – This Resolution adopts $2,621,824 in CASF funding from the CASF for Siskiyou Telephone Company's (Siskiyou) Seiad Underserved Broadband Project. Siskiyou's CASF application covered four project areas in Siskiyou County: Seiad, Hamburg, Member Creek, and Oak Knoll. The project would bring fiber optic facilities to 9 undeserved nodes in those locations. The project would replace old, undersized, and vulnerable aerial copper cable with underground cable in conduit. The $2,621,824 amount granted represents 40% of the total project cost plus Contribution in Aid of Construction (CIAC). The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
$4,975,009 CASF Grant Approved for University Corporation at Monterey Bay Central Cost Broadband Consortium Middle Mile Project
(Item 40, adopted on consent agenda) – This Resolution adopts $4,975,009 in contingent funding from the CASF for the University Corporation at Monterey Bay (The University Corporation) Central Coast Broadband Consortium Middle Mile project amounting to $4,975,009 from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). The University Corporation's project would build 428 miles of fiber backbone via underground and aerial construction in a 3,797 square mile region of the Monterey Bay tri-county region of the central California coast. The amount requested from CASF is 10% of the $49,750,090 total project cost as a match to their 80% ARRA fund request. The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
Contingent CASF Funding of $1,312,747 Awarded to Nevada County Economic Resource Council's Nevada County Connected Middle Mile Project
(Item 45, adopted on consent agenda) – This Resolution adopts contingent CASF funding in the amount of $1,312,747 to the Nevada County Economic Resource Council (NCERC) for its Nevada County Connected Middle Mile project. The total project cost is $13,127,468, with 10% being requested from CASF to match its 80% ARRA request. NCERC is a California non-profit economic development agency, and the Nevada Middle Mile project is a carrier-class 622 MBPS backbone ring architecture that will create a middle mile network with available scalable bandwidth. The system will use three existing towers and construct 11 additional towers, to enable adequate coverage of the service areas and enhance broadband and public safety services. The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
Race Telecommunications' CASF Grant Approved
(Item 70, moved to consent agenda) – This Resolution approves $9,500,864 in contingent CASF funding for Race Telecommunications, Inc.’s ("Race") last mile project in and around Kern County, as a match to Race's ARRA funding request for 80% of the project costs. The funds approved pursuant to this Resolution represent 10% of the project costs to deploy a long-haul fiber optic backbone from Los Angeles to Kern County to provide high-speed internet access to a 444 square mile radius of unserved and underserved areas of 24,352 households and 1,274 businesses, as well as reserved capacity for public benefit organizations. The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
IP Networks, Inc.’s CASF Grant Approved
(Item 26, adopted on consent agenda) – This Resolution approves $4,212,982 in contingent CASF funding for IP Networks, Inc.’s (IPN) construction of a 121-mile fiber cable system interconnecting existing substations in underserved areas in Humboldt and Trinity Counties along Highway 36. The area to be served is 218 square miles, and the project will deliver to 527 rural households. IPN is a telecommunications transport carrier headquartered in San Francisco, that currently provides transport solutions over its networks that enable data and voice services to residential customers, small/medium/large enterprises, and local and federal governmental agencies. The amount requested represents 40% of the total project cost. The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
Cheap2Dial Telephone, LLC Granted a Nondominant Interexchange Carrier Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and Related Settlement Agreement Adopted
(Item 16, adopted on consent agenda) – Cheap2Dial Telephone, LLC's (Cheap2Dial) initial application for registration as an interexchange carrier and authority to do business as a switchless reseller of long-distance service in California was protested by the Commission's Consumer Protection and Safety Division (CPSD) based on concerns that Cheap2Dial had been unlawfully operating in California as a telephone corporation without a license for 15 months. CPSD also alleged that Cheap2Dial had made certain misrepresentations to the Commission in its application in that it had failed to disclose a previous sanction by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission. CPSD and Cheap2Dial filed a joint motion for adoption of a settlement agreement resolving CPSD's issues, and requiring Cheap2Dial to pay a penalty of $10,282.57 in fines/penalties and outstanding surcharges, fees and interests. This Proposed Decision adopts the settlement agreement, grants Cheap2Dial's registration certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN), and closes the proceeding. The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
Assorted Telephone Corporations' Operating Authorities Revoked
(Item 22, adopted on consent agenda) – This Resolution revokes operating authorities held by 97 telephone corporations for failing to comply with a California Public Utilities Reimbursement Account Fee filing and reporting requirements of Public Utilities Code Sections 401 through 435, despite the Commission's attempts to notify them of these requirements. The CPUC assumes that the telephone corporations that did not respond have either gone out of business or are no longer providing telephone service in California. If any such companies are still in operation, they will have an opportunity to reinstate their operating authority by providing a report on gross intrastate revenues from 2008 to the present, and paying fees, surcharges and a 25% fine. The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
Docket Addressing NextG Networks of California Dispute Closed
(Item 31, adopted on consent agenda) – This Proposed Decision acknowledges the final $100,000 payment by NextG Networks of California, Inc. (NextG) resulting from a settlement of allegations that certain ground-disturbing activities by NextG were beyond the authority of its limited facilities-based CPCN (D.09-02-015). The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
Statutory Deadline Extended in CommPartners, LLC v. AT&T California, Inc.
(Item 47, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision extends the statutory deadline to resolve the issues presented in this proceeding for another 90 days. The underlying case involves CommPartners, LLC's (CommPartners) claims against Pacific Bell Telephone Company, doing business as AT&T California, Inc. (AT&T) that AT&T discriminated against CommPartners by refusing to relieve CommPartners of its 911 trunking obligations under the parties' interconnection agreement. CommPartners is seeking disconnection of certain Enhanced 911 trunks, elimination of the associated billing charges, reimbursement, and sanctions against AT&T. The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
Freedom Telecommunications, Inc. Granted Full Facilities-Based Local Exchange Authority and Expedited Environmental Review for Certain Projects
(Item 48, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision grants Freedom Telecommunications, Inc. (Freedom) an expansion of its existing CPCN to include provision of full facilities-based competitive local exchange services. In addition, the CPUC grants Freedom authorization to use an expedited 21-day environmental review for its full facilities-based construction projects that may fall within California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and do not exceed five miles in length. For those projects that are not except from CEQA requirements, Freedom must still apply to the Commission for approval and undergo normal environmental review before commencing construction. Freedom is a Marina del Rey-based carrier that currently provides resold local exchange services to residential and business customers in California. The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
Statutory Deadline Extended in Fones4All Corporation v. AT&T California
(Item 49, adopted on consent agenda) – This case involves Fones4All Corporation's complaint filed against Pacific Bell Telephone Company d/b/a/ AT&T California (AT&T) for various claims related to alleged overcharges by AT&T, namely that AT&T ignored Fones4All's requests to place toll blocks on customer accounts, unlawfully slammed Fones4All's customers, and billed Fones4All at inappropriately high resale rates. AT&T filed a related action alleging that Fones4All refused to pay amounts that AT&T claims are owed for services provided to Fones4All. In August 2008, Fones4All filed for bankruptcy protection, thereby staying AT&T's counterclaims. The Commission has therefore extended the statutory deadline another 180 days to accommodate the bankruptcy stay. The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
Redwood Telephone, LLC Granted Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to Provide Limited Facilities-Based and Resale Competitive Local Telecommunications Services
(Item 52, adopted on consent agenda) – Redwood Telephone, LLC (Redwood) is a telecommunications provider based in Eureka, California. It has applied for authority to provide limited-facilities based and resold competitive exchange services in the service territories of Pacific Bell Telephone Company, Verizon California, Inc., SureWest Telephone Company, and Citizens Telecommunications Company of California. This Decision finds that Redwood has met the CPUC's rules for authority to provide such services, and grants the requested CPCN. The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
- Compensation Granted to Utility Consumers' Action Network for Contribution to Decision 09-05-004 (International Roaming Fraud) (Item 57, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission granted Utility Consumers Action Network's (UCAN) request for compensation in the amount of $73,250.75 in connection with its contributions to D.09-05-004, in which a settlement was reached to provide non-business California AT&T wireless phone customers with consumer protections that reduced international roaming fraud (enhanced notification, opt-outs, blocks, or usage thresholds). The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS
Decision Adopting Guidelines for Customer Education Programs Regarding Backup Power Systems
(R.07-04-015) (Item 67, held by Chong until 12/3 for further review) – This Proposed Decision would conclude the Commission's investigation into reliability standards for telecommunications emergency backup power systems. The Proposed Decision would: (1) adopt guidelines for customer education programs for facilities-based providers of telephony services who provide service to residential customers via technologies that require backup power on the customer's premises; (2) direct service providers to enhance their existing customer education programs to meet these new guidelines; and (3) require service providers to file an advice letter within 180 days of the decision, detailing their customer education programs. The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here and Attachment A to that Proposed Decision is available here.
Determination of Ratemaking Treatment for Rural Telephone Bank Stock Redemption Proceeds
(Item 7, held by Staff until 12/3/09) – This Decision would resolve the Small LECs' application, prompted by previous Commission directives in certain Small LEC rate cases, to address "gain on sale" implications of the recent stock redemption associated with the dissolution of the Rural Telephone Bank. The Proposed Decision would depart from the established "gain on sale" rules and allocate all redeemed stock proceeds, including all gains and all principal investments, to ratepayers. The record in this proceeding has recently been reopened for the submission of additional evidence. That additional evidence was submitted by the Small LECs on November 19, 2009. The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
Resolution Granting Verizon $658,840 in CASF Funding for the Cazadero and Timber Cove Areas of the Sea Ranch Project
(Item 46, held by Staff until 12/17/09)– This Draft Resolution would adopt $658,840 in CASF funding for Verizon California, Inc.'s (Verizon) Sea Ranch project. The amount represents 40% of the total project cost, plus CIAC. Verizon does not plan to seek federal ARRA funds in connection with this project. Verizon's Sea Ranch Project covers three project area locations in Sea Ranch, Timber Cove, and Cazadero, with the construction of 19 miles of new fiber-optic line extending from its Timber Cove wire center to the Sea Ranch center, eventually enabling the backhaul of traffic to Verizon's Novato facilities. The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
Resolution Adopting CASF Funds for Mother Lode Broadband Project
(Item 68, held by Staff until 12/17/09) – This Draft Resolution would adopt funding from the CASF totaling $3,110,064 for the Mother Lode Broadband Project of Telenational Communications Inc./Rapid Link Inc. and Mother Lode Internet. The Mother Lode project would provide increased broadband speed levels in currently "unserved areas" of Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties. The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
- Resolution Approving CASF Funding for The California Broadband Cooperative of California's Digital 395 Middle Mile Project (Items 69/69a, held by Staff until 12/3/09 for compliance with Public Utilities Code Section 311(g) requirements) – There are two competing Draft Resolutions for alternate grant amounts of contingent CASF Funding – $10,149,422 or $19,249,717. The grants would fund the non-profit, member-run and owned organization, the California Broadband Cooperative, Inc.’s (CBC) Digital 395 Middle Mile network project in Mono, Inyo, Eastern Kern and northwest San Bernardino Counties. The project proposes to construct a 448 mile 10-Gigabit high capacity fiber optic middle mile/backhaul route along Highway 395 stretching from Barstow to the Nevada State line at Topaz Lake, providing a "middle mile" link to over three dozen communities in that area. The 10% amount is being requested from the CASF as a match to the accompanying 80% ARRA funding request, with CBC funding the remaining 10%. The CASF maximum grant is 10% of total project cost, and CBC has requested a "good-cause waiver" in order to obtain the 19% amount. The Draft Resolution associated with the 10% contingent funding is available here and the Draft Resolution associated with the 19% contingent funding is available here.
NOTES AND COMMISSIONER REPORTS
New Additions to Commissioner Offices
– Both Commissioner Simon and Commissioner Bohn announced new staff additions. Melicia Charles will be joining Commissioner Simon's office from the Energy Division. Commissioner Simon noted that she will be assisting with the safety infrastructure proceeding (R.08-11-005). Amy Yip-Kikugawa will be replacing Lindsay Brown as Commissioner Bohn's legal and telecommunications advisor. Lindsay Brown will be on maternity leave for some period of time.
- Chong Announcement Regarding ARRA Comment Deadlines and Expected Grants – Commissioner Chong noted in a brief report that the NTIA and RUS will be soliciting comments from interested parties on the ARRA funding process. Comments are due at 2 p.m. Pacific Time on November 30, 2009. Chong noted that California will be providing comments, and that any parties who wish to provide input to California on its filing may provide such input by Wednesday November 25, 2009 (and presumably the Commission and the other state agencies involved will consider whether to incorporate these suggestions). The comments can address both procedural issues (such as how to streamline the application process) and policy issues (such as whether and to what extent the relevant definitions should change). Lastly, Chong noted that grants and loans will be first released in mid-December of this year, and releases are expected to continue through February 2010. There will likely be one more round of funding next year, according to Chong's comments.