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On February 21, 2019, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly scheduled agenda meeting in San Francisco.  The principal item of interest during the meeting was the approval of a revision to California Advanced Services Fund (“CASF”) Broadband Adoption Account provisions.  The Commissioners also discussed the PG&E bankruptcy case with legal counsel during closed sessions, on a subject we expect to be of major interest to the Commission during 2019.  We provide further information regarding agenda items and other matters addressed during the meeting below.

REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS

CASF Broadband Adoption Account Provisions Revised. [Item 15, Adopted on Consent  Agenda]

The Commission adopted a decision making three modifications to the CASF Broadband Adoption Account Application Requirements and Guidelines: (1) increasing the award cap of each application cycle to $7.5 million; (2) clarifying recoverable cost categories; and (3) amending application submission deadlines.  The CASF Adoption Account (“Adoption Account”) is part of the CASF Program that provides grants to local governments, senior centers, schools, public libraries, nonprofit organizations, and community-based organizations to increase publicly available and after-school broadband access and digital inclusion.  In June 2018, the Commission issued Decision (“D.”) 18-06-032, which implemented provisions of AB 1665  and adopted new rules for administering the Adoption Account.  During the first round of Adoption Account grant funding, the Commission received 66 project applications, requesting over $8.4 million in grant funding.  In this decision, the Commission makes slight modifications to the existing Adoption Account guidelines based on its experience with the first round of Adoption Account grants.  The Commission raised the award cap of each application cycle from $5 million to $7.5 million after balancing the advantages of a per-cycle funding cap.  This decision adds “Software” to the category of eligible program costs and excludes “[f]acility rent, utilities, internet service costs, food costs, lodging, marketing incentives for participation (gift cards, giveaways, etc.), certain classroom supplies and accessories, and other items.”  This decision notes that “[a]ll funding requests will be assessed for reasonableness and may be adjusted accordingly at the discretion of the Commission” and that “[a]ny remaining project costs not authorized for funding by the CASF Adoption grant must be funded by other sources (leveraged or self-funding).”  The decision also modifies the application cycle and submission deadlines to the following dates: March 1, 2019; August 1, 2019; January 1, 2020; July 1, 2020; January 1, 2021; July 1, 2021; January 1, 2022; July 1, 2022.

The adopted decision (D. 19-02-008) is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M270/K438/270438889.PDF

 California Internet, L.P. d/b/a GeoLinks Granted ETC Designation, Supported by Federal High-Cost and Federal Lifeline Fund. [Item 14, Adopted on Consent  Agenda]

The Commission has conditionally granted the request of California Internet LP d/b/a GeoLinks (“GeoLinks”), a competitive local exchange carrier and a non-dominant interexchange carrier, to be designated an eligible telecommunications carrier (“ETC”) to provide high-speed broadband Internet access and voice telephony services using fixed wireless technology in connection with its Connect America Fund (“CAF”) II project authorized by the FCC.  GeoLinks is a winning bidder of the CAF II Auction 903 for an award amount of $87.8 million of assigned support over the 10-year term to serve 3,883 census blocks in 242 census block groups in California and Nevada.  Out of the 3,883 census blocks, 3,707 (233 census block groups) are located in California.  For GeoLinks to receive this federal universal service support, it must be designated as an ETC pursuant to Section 254(e) of the Communications Act.  In order to receive an ETC designation from the Commission, a carrier must satisfy all federal ETC requirements, abide by the Commission’s Comprehensive Procedures and Guidelines for ETC Designation and Requirements, and comply with General Order 153 and the CPUC User Fee and surcharge obligations.  A carrier seeking Federal high-cost support must also comply with Resolution T-17002, Appendix B, Section I and II, and file an advice letter with the CPUC on an annual basis.

The Resolution as adopted is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M268/K431/268431655.PDF

County of El Dorado Approved to Serve as Its Own 2-1-1 Service Provider. [Item 16, Adopted on Consent  Agenda]

The Commission granted the County of El Dorado authority to use the 2-1-1 abbreviated dialing code to provide information and referral services to all of El Dorado County.  2-1-1 is the telephone number for accessing non-emergency communication information and referral (“I&R”) providers who may connect the caller to appropriate agencies that can provide needed social services, such as housing assistance, programs to assist with utility bills, food assistance, elderly or child care, and other non-emergency information.

The resolution adopted by the Commission is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M270/K263/270263555.PDF

 Case 18-09-006 Dismissed for Lack of Prosecution. [Item 19, Adopted on Consent  Agenda]

The Commission dismissed a claim filed by Thomas Kenster against Pacific Bell Telephone Company d/b/a AT&T California (“AT&T”) based on lack of prosecution of his claim.  Kenster alleged that AT&T failed to disconnect two telephone service accounts when requested and continued to charge for the allegedly terminated services after Kenster’s request for disconnection.  In his complaint, Kenster demanded a refund of $67.04 for service rendered after the June 13, 2017 request for disconnection, the discontinuation of the two telephone accounts, and the reversal of any late payment charges and other pending charges for those accounts.  AT&T argued that the complaint was moot and should be dismissed because it had already corrected the erroneous billing raised by Kenster, ceased provision of service to Kenster, and the accounts in question had a zero balance.  According to the decision, Kenster did not respond to AT&T’s request to meet and confer, respond to AT&T’s request to submit a joint PHC statement, submit a PHC statement of its own, did not appear at the PHC nor participate by phone, and did not respond to correspondence from the Administrative Law Judge.  The Commission found that Kenster’s failure to act in these multiple instances demonstrated a lack of prosecution of this proceeding and dismissed the underlying complaint.

The decision as adopted is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M269/K454/269454590.PDF

CPCN Application of Communications Venture Corporation d/b/a INdigital Approved. [Item 21, Adopted on Consent  Agenda]

The Commission has granted Communications Venture Corporation d/b/a INdigital (“INdigital”) a certificate of public convenience and necessity to provide competitive limited facilities-based and resold local exchange service and non-dominant interexchange service in the service territories of AT&T California, Frontier California, Frontier Communications, and Consolidated Communications.  INdigital is an Indiana telephone corporation that is bidding to provide enhanced and next generation 911 service to government agencies in California using facilities owned by other certified California carriers.

The decision (Decision 19-02-012) adopted by the Commission is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M269/K916/269916471.PDF

 CPCN Application of Intermountain Infrastructure Group, LLC Approved.  [Item 22, Adopted on Consent  Agenda]

The Commission granted the application of Intermountain Infrastructure Group, LLC (“Intermountain”) for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to provide competitive full facilities-based and competitive resold telecommunications services in the service territories of AT&T California, Frontier California, Frontier Communications, and Consolidated Communications.  Intermountain proposes to provide infrastructure facilities like conduit and dark or lit fiber for use in connection with the transport and transmission of communications.  The Commission has found that Intermountain’s facilities-based project activities would in almost all circumstances be likely to qualify for an exemption from CEQA review, and thus, approves Intermountain’s proposed expedited review process for construction projects.  Intermountain is also found exempt from a tariff filing requirement because it will not provide residential local service.  Lastly, the Commission has approved Intermountain’s request for non-dominant interexchange carrier status, and corresponding exemption from Public Utilities Code Sections 816-830 concerning stocks and security.

The decision (Decision 19-02-013) adopted by the Commission is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M270/K208/270208680.PDF

Intervenor Compensation to the Greenlining Institute for Contribution to Decisions Concerning California LifeLine and Federal Lifeline Programs. [Item 31, Adopted on Consent  Agenda]

The Greenlining Institute (“Greenlining”) claimed an intervenor compensation amount of $38,999.50 and received $38,779.50 for its contribution to D.16-10-039 (adopting rules allowing VoIP providers to participate in the LifeLine program, D.17-01-032 (creating rules regarding reimbursement for activation fees, portability and enrollment freezes, and the revised eligibility criteria in light of changes to the federal Lifeline program), D.17-08-004 (suspending the eligibility criteria provisions of D.17-01-032 until at least November 1, 2017), and D.18-02-006 (augmenting the eligibility criteria for the LifeLine program and creating “bridge” funding for participants who no longer qualify for federal Lifeline funds).  The Commission’s decision corrects a mathematical error in Greenlining’s request.

The decision (Decision 19-02-020) adopted by the Commission is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M269/K916/269916575.PDF

 SIGNIFICANT HELD ITEMS

Santa Barbara Cellular Systems, LLC, AT&T Mobility Wireless Operations Holdings, Inc., and New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC Requests for Refund of Overpayments of PPP Surcharges and the Commission’s User Fees Partially Approved. [Item 11, Held to 3/14/19 by Staff]

The Draft Resolution would partially approve the requests of three providers of prepaid and postpaid wireless telephone services in California, Santa Barbara Cellular Systems, LLC, AT&T Mobility Wireless Operations Holdings, Inc., and New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC (collectively, “AT&T Mobility companies”), for refunds of erroneously overpaid Public Purpose Program (“PPP”) surcharges and the Commission’s user fees on intrastate data revenues totaling $924,249.86, subject to an audit by the Commission’s Utility Audit, Finance and Compliance Branch (“UAFCB”).  As registered cellular providers in California, the AT&T Mobility companies must collect, report, and remit PPP surcharges and user fees to the Commission.  PPP surcharges and user fees are computed as a percentage of intrastate prepaid and postpaid wireless service revenues subject to surcharge.  The AT&T Mobility companies claimed in Advice Letter Nos. 166, 161, and 8 that, in reporting intrastate revenues to the Commission from January 1, 2013 through September 30, 2015, they erroneously included intrastate prepaid wireless data service revenue, which is not subject to the PPP surcharges or the CPUC user fee.  The draft resolution would find that the AT&T Mobility companies’ methodology for calculating refunds to be generally reasonable; however, the resolution limits refunds to overages remitted for January through September 2015 because the Government Claims Act, Gov. Code Section 911.2, requires claims for refunds to be submitted within one year of the accrual of the claim, and AT&T Mobility companies’ notification first occurred in January 2016.

The latest version of the draft resolution underlying this item is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M259/K651/259651144.PDF

COMMISSIONER REPORTS

  • Commissioner Guzman Aceves reported on her trip with Communications Division director Cynthia Walker to Washington D.C. to meet with all five FCC commissioners.  The commissioners discussed concerns concerning emergency response during disasters and the need for improved emergency notification and resilient communications systems.  Commissioner Guzman Aceves briefed the FCC commissioners on California’s experience with emergency disaster relief during its wildfire disasters and the FCC commissioners expressed interest in continued collaboration with the CPUC to ensure that carriers invest in necessary resiliency infrastructure like battery storage.  Commissioner Guzman Aceves and Director Walker also emphasized the need for greater collaboration in connecting rural customers through the CASF, CAF and E-rate subsidy programs.  The Commissioner and the Director expressed concern regarding the proposed changes to the federal Lifeline program, including the facility-based limitation and implementation of the national verifier for Lifeline eligibility.  Commissioner Guzman Aceves also shared with the FCC commissioners California’s efforts to launch pilot programs within the California LifeLine program to target at-risk youth and re-entry populations.  A proposed decision approving these pilot programs is anticipated to appear on the March 28 voting meeting.
  • Commissioner Shiroma announced the selection of the interim members of her staff:
    • Administrative staff: Scott Mosbaugh
    • Interim Chief of Staff: John Reynolds (will leave the Commission in March)
    • Interim Chief of Staff: Leuwam Tesfai (will take over as Chief of Staff after Reynolds’ departure)
    • Interim Telecom Advisor: Devla Singh
    • Interim Energy Advisor: MC Brown

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