On June 13, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly scheduled agenda meeting in Sacramento. The principal items of interest concerned the Commission’s approval of Call America, Inc.’s withdrawal of its appeal of a Communications Division citation and the Commission’s adoption of an all service area code overlay in the 909 area code. All Legislative items were held to June 27th without comment.
REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS
Call America, Inc’s Appeal of C.D. Citation for P.U.C. and G.O. 104-A Violations. [Item 12, Adopted on Consent Agenda]
The Commission approved Call America, Inc. (“Call America”)’s withdrawal of its appeal of Citation CD-2019-01-028, in which it was alleged that Call America failed to make required regulatory filings. Call America submitted its appeal on February 5, 2019 and withdrew it on May 2, 2019. CD did not oppose the withdrawal. The draft resolution proposing to close Call America’s appeal proceeding, K.19-02-011, was adopted.
The most recent version of the draft resolution underlying this agenda item is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M289/K385/289385241.PDF
Request for an All Service Area Code Overlay in 909 Area Code. [Item 13, Adopted on Consent Agenda]
The Commission adopted a proposed decision that would approve the application of Neustar Inc., the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, on behalf of current and prospective telecommunications carriers operating, or considering operations, in the 909 area code. The 909 area code, which has 21 exchanges serving the southwestern portion of San Bernardino County, the eastern portion of Los Angeles County, and small portions of Orange and Riverside Counties, is projected to exhaust its available numbering resources in the third quarter of 2021. To address this, this proposed decision would adopt an all-services distributed overlay, which would superimpose a new area code over the geographic area presently covered by the 909 area code. The overlay alternative has become the Commission’s preferred method of addressing number exhaust situations over area code “splits” because existing customers would not be required to change their area code and the city of Fontana would not need to be divided into two area codes as it would under an area code “split” alternative. The proposed decision provides that carriers serving the 909 area code form an industry task force to develop and implement a public education program that would achieve at least a “70 percent public awareness and understanding of the change in dialing patterns and area code identification resulting from the overlay.” Proposed Decision at 19. This public education program would be funded by service providers, in proportion to the relative percentage of thousand-number blocks that they hold as of the effective date of this decision. This proposed decision does not establish a specific budget for the public education program, and instead, relies on carriers in the 909 area code to determine an appropriate amount to achieve the proposed decision’s public awareness goals.
The most recent version of the proposed decision underlying this agenda item is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M301/K204/301204171.PDF
Liberty Utilities LLC Application to Recover Costs Recorded in CEMA Related to 2017 Winter Storms. [Item 3, Adopted on Consent Agenda]
The Commission authorized Liberty Utilities LLC (“Liberty”) to recover the incremental expenses and capital expenditures, excluding carrying costs, it incurred in 2017 to address catastrophic winter storms, in the amount of $3,524,696.31. This amount would be recovered over a one-year period beginning within 60 days after issuance of this decision. From January to February 2017, severe snow storms in several counties around the Lake Tahoe area damaged Liberty’s equipment and facilities, causing widespread customer outages that required Liberty to supplement work crews, and procure new maintenance and capital equipment. Liberty undertook repair work in counties for which the Governor issued state of emergency declarations, and tracked its costs in a Catastrophic Event Memorandum Account (“CEMA”). On October 25, 2017, Liberty filed an Application seeking recovery of storm-related costs recorded in its CEMA, totaling $4.846 million in total incremental costs, including $3.379 million in operations and maintenance expenses and $1.467 million in capital expenditures. In its Application, Liberty proposed recovery of $3.802 million. The Public Advocates Office (“Cal PA”) protested Liberty’s Application, asserting that Liberty incorrectly accounted for CEMA costs and that certain costs claimed did not qualify for CEMA recovery. The A-3 customer Coalition (“A-3”), a self-identified ad-hoc group of large electrical customers, asserted that Liberty’s CEMA costs were too high, and claimed that the proposed recovery allocation was unfair. In the decision adopted at the meeting, the Commission granted recovery of $3,524,696.31 through an adjustment to Liberty’s existing CEMA surcharge for a period of one year, based on the following findings:
- Liberty properly and timely established a CEMA for addressing costs associated with the 2017 winter storms.
- Liberty’s claimed costs are proximately caused by the 2017 winter storms.
- Liberty appropriately booked its claimed costs, and utilized a reasonable, justified, and lawful accounting methodology. In making this finding, the Commission found that it must consider individual circumstances, and that the disallowance of expenses “solely due to justifiable delay in booking would be inconsistent with the intent of recovery of CEMA-related costs.” Proposed Decision at 18.
- A $3,524,696.31 revenue requirement is reasonable (incremental and justified) and recoverable. Liberty was able to demonstrate this by providing a detailed explanation of the work completed (including pictures of storm damage), copies of invoices for costs related to the 2017 storms, a detailed explanation of the breakdown of the invoices, with an explanation of how the services rendered related to the 2017 storms, and an explanation of its accounting of CEMA expenses, relative to overall company expenses.
- Liberty’s carrying charges totaling $74,232.87 should be denied because Liberty does not have an applicable tariff allowing the recovery of carrying charges.
The most recent version of the proposed decision underlying this item is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M299/K263/299263189.PDF
SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS
Categorical Exemption under CEQA for the Beasore/Central Camp Unserved and Underserved CASF Broadband Project. [Item 8, Held to 6/27/19 by Staff]
The Commission held a draft resolution that would grant a categorical CEQA exemption for the Beasore/Central Camp Unserved and Underserved Broadband Project (“Beasore/Central Camp Project” or “Project”) and release $1,755,042 in California Advanced Services Fund (“CASF”) grant funding to the Ponderosa Telephone Co. (“Ponderosa”) to construct the Project, accordance with Resolution T-17424. On December 19, 2013, the Commission adopted Resolution T-17424, conditionally authorizing a CASF grant of $1,755,042 to deploy fiber-to-the-home connections capable of 50/20 Mbps speeds in the Beasore and Central Camp areas of Madera County. This investment would provide Internet, telephone, and potentially, video services to an area that is currently completely unserved by landlines and has a mix of underserved and unserved coverage from wireless providers. Ponderosa would provide backhaul for this project via ADSS fiber attached to Pacific Gas & Electric Company poles to the Central Camp area. The Beasore area would receive its backhaul from a microwave radio installation with solar power and a back-up generator powering the radio, fiber transmission, and network terminating equipment at the subscriber premises. The draft resolution finds that Ponderosa’s Proponent Environmental Assessment (“PEA”) to the Energy Division’s Infrastructure Permitting and CEQA Section and the USDA Forest Service’s Decision Memos for Special Use Permits under the National Environmental Policy Act support the Project’s categorical exemption on this basis that the Project’s activities would not have a significant effect on the environment (CEQA Guidelines Section 15061).
The latest version of the draft resolution underlying this item is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M289/K691/289691650.PDF
CASF Funding for Five Broadband Public Housing Account Infrastructure Project Grants Rescinded. [Item 2, withdrawn]
The Commission withdrew a draft resolution rescinding CASF funding for five previously awarded Broadband Public Housing Account infrastructure projects (Better Opportunity Builders’ Brierwood project; Eden Housing’s Monticelli, Rancho Park, and Royal Court projects; People’s Self Help Housing’s Rolling Hills Apartments project) approved in Resolutions T-17506, T-17515, and T-17514. This reversal of previous grants restores CASF fund obligations totaling $163,173. This resolution rescinds the Brierwood Project (Res. T-17506) at the request of Fresno Housing Authority, an affiliate of Better Opportunity Builders, after Fresno Housing Authority reported that it could not secure an affordable Internet Service Provider. This draft resolution rescinds the Monticelli, Rancho Park, and Royal Court Projects (Res. T-17515) because Eden Housing failed to timely complete construction of the projects and secure an ISP, and additionally, failed to file a sufficient extension request. This draft resolution rescinds the Rolling Hills Apartments Project (Res. T-17514) at the request of People’s Self Help Housing after it had encountered electrical issues that were too expensive to resolve.
The latest version of the draft resolution underlying this item is available here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M298/K178/298178760.PDF
Legislative Items: Assembly Bills and Senate Bills. [Items 22-26, Held until 6/27 by Staff]
Without discussion, the Commission continued its prior hold of all legislative items on the June 13th agenda. Notable items include
- AB 162 (Kiley, prohibiting the commission from collecting, for deposit into any universal service fund, any revenues derived from charges upon the provision of a communications service that the FCC has determined is an information service; prohibiting the Commission from imposing a utility reimbursement fee that is applicable to the provision of a communications service that the FCC has determined is an information service);
- AB 183 (Wood, requiring the Commission to collect information from telecommunications service providers related to efforts and resources used to restore telecommunications service outages caused by certain emergencies or natural disasters);
- AB 291 (Chu, establishing a Local Emergency Preparedness and Hazard Mitigation Fund to support staffing, planning, and other emergency mitigation priorities to help local governments meet emergency management, preparedness, readiness and resilience goals; upon appropriation by Legislature, requiring the Controller to transfer $500,000,000 to the fund);
- AB 488 (Agular-Curry, adding the Secretary of Food and Agriculture to the California Broadband Council);
- AB 740 (Burke, establishing a California Catastrophic Wildfire Victims Fund to provide reimbursements to victims for a portion of wildfire losses, and to avoid lengthy legal proceedings; requiring an electrical corporation and its shareholders to annually set aside funding that would be used to reimburse the fund if the electrical corporation is determined to be responsible for a wildfire by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and that determination is sustained by a final judgment);
- AB 956 (Diep, allowing the use of automatic dialing-announcing devices to test the enhanced 911 emergency phone system for data accuracy and emergency alert system capabilities);
- AB 1072 (Patterson, requiring the Commission to audit the books and records of each electrical, gas, heat, telegraph, telephone, and water corporation if the utility has over 10,000 customers; requiring the Commission to review or audit the utility if it has 10,000 or fewer customers);
- AB 1079 (Santiago, authorizing the provision of telephone numbers for the purpose of testing the systems that respond to 911 calls);
- AB 1168 (Mullin, requiring each PSAP to deploy a text-to-911 service capable of accepting SMS or Real-Time Text messages);
- AB 1409 (Chau, requiring 15% of revenues from fees collected form the lease of state-owned real property to the providers of wireless telecommunications services and penalties on holders of state franchises for the provision of video services, all of which are deposited into the Digital Divide Account (which awards grants to certain CBOs for the purpose of funding community technology programs) to be timely deposited into the account, and would continuously appropriate the moneys in the account to the CPUC for purposes of the Digital Divide Grant Program; authorizing grants to be awarded to fund the use of broadband services for “homework gap projects” and to fund the installation of broadband, broadband service, equipment, administrative implementation and maintenance for “homework gap projects”);
- AB 1323 (Stone, authorizing a public utility, its subsidiary, or affiliate to request the Commission to withhold from public disclosure all or portion of information provided);
- AB 1409 (Chau, creating a Digital Divide Grant Program);
- AB 1514 (Patterson, authorizing nurse practitioners to certify that a person is qualified for the Death and Disabled Telecommunications Program);
- AB 1699 (Levine, prohibiting mobile internet service provider from impairing or degrading the lawful internet traffic of its public safety customer accounts during a state of emergency);
- AB 1757 (Patterson, implementing a 45-day, instead of 30-day, public review and comment period for Commission resolutions and decisions);
- AB 523 (Irwin, applying customer privacy rules to “noncommercial” subscribers);
- AB 1366 (Gonzalez, new VoIP regulations);
- SB 46 (Jackson, opt in and opt out rules relating to public emergency warning system);
- SB 199 (Hill, Office of the Safety Advocate);
- SB 208 (Hueso, Consumer Call Protection Act of 2019);
- SB 603 (Borgeas, authorizing a small independent telephone corporation to initiate a rate case through either an advice letter or application. If a rate case is initiated by an advice letter, the bill would require that the case be processed according to the commission’s rules governing advice letters, be completed within 10 months of its submission, and that any changes to the telephone corporation’s revenue requirements or rate design resulting from the commission’s disposition of the advice letter be implemented within 12 months of the advice letter’s submission. If a rate case is initiated by application, the bill would require that the case be processed according to the commission’s rules governing formal proceedings, be completed within 12 months of its submission, and that any changes to the telephone corporation’s revenue requirements or rate design resulting from the commission’s disposition of the application be implemented within 14 months of the application’s submission.);
- SB 670 (McGuire, 911 outage notifications to OES).