On July 11, 2019, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly scheduled agenda meeting in San Francisco. Commissioner Randolph and Commissioner Picker were absent from this meeting; however, the presence of the remaining three Commissioners satisfied the Commission’s quorum requirement. Commissioner Guzman Aceves presided over the voting meeting. The principal item of interest concerned the Commission’s adoption of the proposed decision overruling the Presiding Officer’s Decision in California Cable & Telecommunications Association’s complaint against San Diego Gas & Electric Company’s pole attachment fees. All remaining Legislative items were held to August 1, 2019 without comment. The significant items addressed during the meeting are summarized below.
REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS
Decision on Appeal of Presiding Officer’s Decision Determining Pole Attachment Fee. [Item 14, Adopted on Consent Agenda]
The Commission adopted a decision addressing the California Cable & Telecommunications Association (“CCTA”)’s appeal of the Presiding Officer’s Decision (“POD”) determining San Diego Gas & Electric Company’s (“SDG&E”) annual recurring pole attachment fees for billing years 2017 and 2018. Specifically, this decision overrules the POD’s denial of discovery into SDG&E’s actual investment in appurtenances for pole attachments and reopens the record of this proceeding to give the parties an opportunity to introduce evidence relating to SDG&E’s actual investment in appurtenances and the resulting pole attachment fee. The POD, which was issued on April 11, 2019, would have addressed CCTA’s November 6, 2017, complaint that SDG&E violated Public Utilities Code Section 767.5 for charging pole attachment fees that diverge from the formula set forth in the statute. In the POD, the assigned administrative law judge determined that SDG&E’s pole attachment fees should have been $28.95 for billing year 2017 and $28.82 for billing year 2018.
On May 10, 2019, Commissioner Rechtschaffen requested review of the POD on the grounds that the Commission should consider allowing CCTA to conduct discovery of documentation underlying SDG&E’s accounting of the cost of ownership of its utility poles, particularly with regard to appurtenances. Commissioner Rechtschaffen proposed in his Request for Review that the 15% appurtenance adjustment factor set forth in the POD is a rebuttable presumption and CCTA should be allowed reasonable discovery to challenge it. On May 13, 2019, CCTA then appealed the POD on the grounds that the POD contained legal errors and incorrect factual assertions. Specifically, CCTA alleged that the ALJ abused her discretion with respect to the Commission’s discovery rules, SDG&E failed to provide actual cost data in its possession related to appurtenances, and the ALJ violated CCTA’s due process rights by establishing a new discovery standard at the evidentiary hearing after the discovery period had closed. Through this decision, the Commission rejects the POD’s “good faith basis” prerequisite for discovery seeking to rebut the 15% appurtenance ratio presumption, finds that a complainant in a pole attachment fee dispute should have access to discovery regarding a utility’s actual investment in appurtenances not necessary for the pole attachment, and determines that the composition of poles is not the driving factor of the difference in average costs between steel and wood poles.
Decision 19-07-005, the decision adopted by the Commission is available at: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M309/K750/309750578.PDF
SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS
Q LINK Wireless LLC Granted ETC Designation to Provide Only Federal Lifeline Wireless Service in Territories of T-Mobile and Sprint. [Item 9, Held to 8/1/19 by Staff]
The Commission held a draft resolution that would deny the request of Q LINK Wireless, LLC (“Q LINK”), a wireless reseller carrier, to be designated as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (“ETC”) to provide only federal Lifeline wireless service in the wireless coverage areas of T-Mobile and Sprint. Q LINK is a Delaware limited liability company that does not currently provide any telecommunications services in California, but has a Wireless Identification Registration as a California provider of commercial mobile radio services using the network services of Sprint PCS and T-Mobile. Q LINK previously applied for ETC designation with the Commission in 2012, but was denied due to a variety of reasons relating to failure to provide full disclosure of key information and inadequacy of technical capability and Lifeline offerings. Through this draft resolution, the Commission would once again deny Q LINK’s request for ETC status on similar grounds, including: (1) demonstration of a pattern of providing misleading, incomplete and false information; (2) misrepresentation of information on its CPUC WIR application; and (3) deficiencies in its federal Lifeline enrollment procedures. This draft resolution further finds that Q LINK’s managing members have shown repeated patterns of providing misleading information and providing inconsistent answers to multiple state Commissions.
The latest version of the draft resolution underlying this item is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M296/K917/296917125.PDF
Legislative Items: Assembly Bills and Senate Bills. [Items 29-33 Held until 8/1 by Staff]
Without discussion, the Commission continued its holds on all pending legislative items.
COMMISSIONER REPORTS AND PUBLIC COMMENTS
- During the voting meeting, Commissioner Guzman Aceves congratulated Commissioner Shiroma on the confirmation of her appointment by the California Senate on July 9, 2019.
- During public comments, Mark Toney, the Executive Director of TURN, requested the Commission to take immediate action to resolve the present backlog in intervenor compensation claims. Mr. Toney claimed that in the last several months, the Commission’s processing of claims has ground to a halt, and, according to Toney, this has adversely impacted TURN and other intervenors. TURN’s pending intervenor claims amount to $7 million, an amount higher than TURN’s annual budget. Mr. Toney argued that state law requires the Commission to process intervenor compensation claims within 75 days, and $4 million worth of claimed compensation out of the $7 million total claimed has already been delayed beyond the 75-day deadline. The backlog has evidently forced TURN to take out $300,000 of its $1 million line of credit for payroll.