On December 14, 2017, the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) held the last voting meeting for the calendar year; the next meeting will be held on January 11, 2017. During this meeting, the CPUC adopted its proposed fire safety regulations for the newly defined high fire threat district. This and other items of interest addressed during the CPUC meeting are summarized below.
Commission Adopts New Fire Safety Regulations (Item 56, adopted during the regular agenda)
This Decision adopts regulations to enhance fire safety in a newly defined high fire-threat district (“HFTD”), which include:
- Zone 1, which consists of Tier 1 High Hazard Zones (“HHZs”) on the map of Tree Mortality HHZs prepared jointly by the United States Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (“CAL FIRE”). Tier 1 HHZs are in direct proximity to communities, roads, and utility lines, and represent a direct threat to public safety.
- Tier 2, which consists of areas on the CPUC’s Fire-Threat Map where there is an elevated risk for destructive utility-associated wildfires. The CPUC Fire-Threat Map is currently in an advanced stage of development.
- Tier 3, which consists of areas on the CPUC Fire-Threat Map now being completed where there is an extreme risk for destructive utility-associated wildfires.
The adopted regulations include:
- Amendments to G.O. 95, Rule 18. This rule is revised to require utilities to (i) prioritize correction of safety hazards based, in part, on whether the safety hazard is located in the HFTD; (ii) correct within six months a Priority Level 2 fire risk that is located in Tier 3 of the HFTD; and (iii) correct within 12 months a Priority Level 2 fire risk that is located in Tier 2 of the HFTD.
- Amendments to G.O. 95, Rule 35, Table 1. This rule is revised to require utilities to maintain the stricter Case 14 vegetation clearances in the HFTD.
- Amendments to G.O. 95, Rule 38. G.O. 95, Rule 38 specifies minimum radical clearances between wires. Currently, Rule 38 allows a 10 percent reduction of the minimum clearances in certain circumstances. This rule is revised to increase the minimum clearance between wires for new and reconstructed facilities in Tier 3 of the HFTD.
- Amendments to G.O. 95, Rule 80.1-A. This rule is revised to require minimum patrol and inspection cycles for overhead communication lines in Tier 2 and Tier 3 of the HFTD. Inspections must be conducted twice as often in Tier 3 compared to Tier 2.
- Amendments to G.O. 95, Rule 80.1-B. This rule is revised to require a minimum inspection cycle for overhead communication lines in Tier 3 of the HFTD.
- Amendments to G.O. 95, Appendix E. Appendix E is revised to increase the recommended time-of-trim clearances between power lines and vegetation in the HFTD.
In adopting the new fire safety regulations, President Picker discussed the recent California fires. This proceeding remains open for the purposes of creating a statewide fire-wind map, the development and adoption of fire-wind-load standards and possibly other fire safety regulations tied to the fire-wind map, and the six-month time frame for correcting Priority Level 2 fire risks in Tier 2 fire threat areas.
A copy of the decision is available at:
Resolution Approving Increase in the Level of Utilities Reimbursement Account User Fees (Item 8, adopted on consent agenda)
The CPUC adopts an increase in user fees effective January 1, 2018, to fund the Public Utilities Commission Utilities Reimbursement Account (“PUCURA”). The user fee rates are increased to account for the increased expenditure level granted by the Governor’s budget for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017-18 and the consequential need to increase the PUCURA to maintain a fund reserve necessary at the new expenditure level. For telecommunications utilities, the 2018 User Fees will be calculated by multiplying .0033 by the revenues to which the PUCURA fee applies.
CPUC Approves a Change in Frontier’s Method of Notifying Customers of the Availability of Yellow and White Page Directories (Item 23, adopted on consent agenda)
The CPUC approved the advice letters of Frontier California Inc., Frontier Communications of the Southwest Inc., and Citizens Telecommunications of California Inc., dba Frontier Communications of California (collectively, “Frontier”), allowing Frontier to notify its customers of the availability of residential white pages and yellow pages through bill inserts and posting of the notice on its website.
CPUC CASF Grant Awardees to Comply with the Attestation Report Requirements And Modifies the 2016 Consortia Grants to Reimburse Reporting Costs (Item 29, adopted on consent agenda)
This resolution requires California Advanced Services Fund (“CASF”) consortia grantees for the 2016 Consortia Grants Cycle to comply with the Attestation Report requirement adopted in D.11-06-038. This new requirement requires the fiscal agent to agree that the work outlined in the Consortium Work Plan will be completed and verified by an Attestation Report, prepared by an independent licensed Certified Public Accountant and submitted annually to the Communications Division. This resolution also modifies grant awards for the 2016 Consortia Grants, in order to provide for reimbursement of these reporting requirement costs.
CPUC Approves CASF Surcharge Rate Increase (Item 30, adopted on consent agenda)
The CPUC adopted a surcharge rate increase from 0.00% to 0.56% for the CASF Program, effective March 1, 2018 through December 31, 2022. As of March 1, 2018, all regulated telecommunication carriers will need to increase the CASF surcharge rate from 0.00% to 0.56% on their end-user charges billed for intrastate telecommunications services.
CPUC Removes Requirement for a Construction Phase Performance Bond for Eldorado North Project (Item 31, adopted on consent agenda)
This resolution grants Cal.net, Inc.’s (“Cal.net”) Request for Limited Modification of Resolution T-17497, in order to remove the requirement for a construction phase performance bond. This follows the CPUC’s approval of Cal.net’s CASF funding to build last-mile fixed wireless infrastructure to provide broadband Internet and VoIP services to underserved rural communities in the northern regions of El Dorado County, which was conditioned on Cal.net obtaining a performance bond—a requirement for all non-telephone corporations. Cal.net requested limited modification on the basis that it is now considered a telephone corporation.
CPUC Denies ORA’s Petition to Modify D.14-08-057 (DIVCA Renewal Decision) (Item 32, adopted on consent agenda)
This decision denies the Office of Ratepayer Advocate’s (“ORA”) Petition for Modification of Decision 14-08-057 (DIVCA Renewal Decision) on July 1, 2015 (“Petition”). The Petition sought to modify the DIVCA Renewal Decision to require public participation hearings during the renewal process and to allow comment on issues besides violations of non-appealable court orders of any provision of DIVCA. The CPUC denied the Petition stating that ORA failed to justify its requested relief and finding that ORA’s legal arguments have been previously litigated.
CPUC Establishes New Processes and Timelines to Invoke “Right of First Refusal” (Item 33, adopted on consent agenda)
This resolution establishes a new process and timeline for an existing facilities-based broadband service provider to invoke its “right of first refusal.” This process begins in 2018 and repeats on an annual basis until 2022. Each year, an existing broadband provider has until January 15th to submit a letter to the Communications Division Director with a copy to the CASF distribution service list demonstrating its intent to upgrade services to households at served speeds within 180 days. During this time, the CPUC will not award a CASF grant to any other provider in the project area. An existing provider will have 180 days thereafter, to complete the project to all households in the project area at served speeds. Sixteen days following completion of the project, or no later than July 31 of each year, the existing provider shall submit a right of first refusal project completion report to the Communications Division Director. The existing provider may request an extension, in the event that the existing provider is unable to complete deployment of broadband services within 180 days of its exercise of the right of first refusal.
This decision eliminates compliance obligations set forth in Ordering Paragraphs 6, 7, and 8 of D.16-12-047, which required (a) a workshop to develop a communications services outages template to report service outages that impact energy service, energy facilities, and/or grid management and that the electric utilities begin reporting under that template, (b) a workshop to investigate how best to use communications technology to, in a cost-effective manner: protect the safety of the customers they serve, their workers, and utility infrastructure; improve the watershed upon which they rely; mitigate fire danger resulting from dead trees, drought, and other conditions that negatively impact water, energy, and telecommunications infrastructure, workers, and the customers they serve, now and into the future, and (c) a report on the second workshop regarding how best to use communications technology to mitigate natural disasters in the manner discussed at the workshop.
CPUC Amends NOS Communications, Inc.’s CPCN (Item 41, adopted on consent agenda)
The CPUC amended the CPCN previously provided to NOS Communications, Inc. (“NOS”) to include: (1) limited facilities-based competitive local exchange service within the service territories of Pacific Bell Telephone Company d/b/a AT&T California and Frontier California, Inc., formerly Verizon California, Inc.; (2) resold and limited facilities-based competitive local exchange service within the service territories of Consolidated Communications of California Company and Citizens Telecommunications Company of California, Inc.; and (3) limited facilities-based interexchange services on a statewide basis.
Cox Communications Granted Waiver of LifeLine Requirement (Item 45, adopted on consent agenda)
This decision approves the application of Cox Telcom, LLC (“Cox”) for a waiver of the requirement to provide its customers equal access to interexchange telecommunication services within the State of California when offering basic and LifeLine wireline services.
CPUC Denied Rehearing of D.16-12-035 Regarding Small LEC Rate of Return (Item 64, signed in closed session)
Following a conference with Legal Counsel, the CPUC adopted an order denying the Application for Rehearing filed by Cal-Ore Telephone Co., Foresthill Telephone Company, Kerman Telephone Company, The Ponderosa Telephone Company, Sierra Telephone Company, Inc., and Volcano Telephone Company of D.16-12-035 (Cost of Capital). In D.16-12-035 the Commission adopted the costs of equity to be used in any pending and future GRC application cycles that are initiated before the year 2021 by the ten independent Small LECs that draw from the CHCF-A. This Decision also established the LEC cost of capital for the most recently concluded GRCs of Kerman Telephone Co., The Siskiyou Telephone Company and Volcano Telephone Company.