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On October 31, 2013, the Commission held its regularly-scheduled agenda meeting.  No telecommunications items were on the regular agenda but on consent, the Commission approved the decisions granting CASF funding for Pinnacles with respect to its Pinnacles Monument Project and for Ponderosa as to the Big Creek Project.  These and other items of interest are discussed in further detail below.

CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS

Pinnacles Granted $195,299 in CASF Funding for the Pinnacles Monument Project (Item 19, approved on consent) – This Resolution grants $195,299 in CASF funding to Pinnacles Telephone Company (“Pinnacles”) for the Pinnacles Monument Project.  The project will upgrade broadband service to households, businesses, and anchor institutions located in 126.67 square miles of rural San Benito County.  The households within the project area are currently underserved, with very slow broadband.  Through this project, Pinnacles will upgrade its network and provide much faster broadband.

Pinnacles will establish a radio link between its existing central office and Big Mountain Tower in order to transport data from DSL subscribers located in the New Idria, Pinnacles National Monument, and Big Mountain areas.  Two remote terminals will also be installed to support DSL internet connections in the underserved areas of Old Hernandez Road and Willow Creek Road.  The new remote terminals will be connected to an existing fiber-connected access point through approximately four miles of buried fiber.

A copy of the Proposed Decision underlying this item is available at the following link:

Ponderosa Granted $898,574 in CASF Funding for the Big Creek Project (Item 22, approved on consent) – This Resolution grants $898,574 in CASF funding to the Ponderosa Telephone Company (“Ponderosa”) for its Big Creek Unserved and Underserved Broadband Project (“Big Creek Project”).  The Big Creek Project will extend high-speed internet service to 39.04 square miles covering the Big Creek, Huntington Lake, and Lakeshore communities of Fresno County.

When complete, the project is expected to reach households at advertised speeds of 6 Mbps/1.5 Mbps.  The Resolution notes that the project may potentially reach significantly more customers when relying on housing unit data. 
This project will extend Ponderosa’s network through a Fiber Optic Cable System from Musick Mountain to Big Creek.  Ponderosa will also install a new Broadband Loop Carrier system at the Grouse Creek subdivision and update several legacy Digital Loop Carrier systems.  The upgrades will also utilize Ponderosa’s existing copper distribution plants in a fiber-to-the-node configuration.  In addition, the project will include the installation of fiber distribution facilities in the Camp Sierra subdivision in a fiber-to-the-home configuration with the equipment located in the Big Creek central office.

A copy of the Draft Resolution underlying this item is available at the following link:

Kerman’s General Rate Case Stayed and its Request for Interim Rate Relief Denied (Item 8, approved on consent) – This Decision imposes an unprecedented stay on Kerman Telephone Co. d/b/a Sebastian’s (“Kerman”) rate case and denies Kerman’s related request for interim rate relief for calendar year 2013.  Kerman brought this rate case in 2011, and the Commission has failed to act on it in a timely manner.  This Decision locks in this administrative delay for at least three more months.

A copy of the Proposed Decision underlying this item is available at the following link:

Race Telecommunications Inc. Granted $3,426,357 in CASF Funding for Boron Project (Item 10, approved on consent) – This Resolution grants $3,426,357 in CASF funding to Race Telecommunications Inc. (“Race”) for its Kern County / City of Boron Underserved Broadband Project (“Boron Project”).  The award represents 60% of the total project costs of $4,810,948.  The Resolution will also approve $539,788 as a Contribution in Aid of Construction (“CIAC”), which is intended to be applied toward state and federal taxes if the CASF funds are taxed.  The CIAC will not be awarded if the CASF funds are not subject to taxes.

The Boron Project will extend high-speed internet service to 42.26 square miles covering the City of Boron in Kern County through the expansion of a fiber-to-the-premises last mile network deployment into the project area. The expansion will provide high speed internet access to 892 households in the City of Boron.

Race will build the network by deploying long haul fiber from Digital 395 to the local region and establishing a regional central office and collocation facility.  Race will subsequently build a regional backbone to establish a local fiber right and designed upon an Open Systems Interconnection (“OSI”) to allow for compatibility with other OSI networks.

The Draft Resolution underlying this item is available at the following link:

WillitsOnline Granted CASF Funding for its Westport Project ($149,364) and Booneville Project ($163,908) (Items 17 and 18, approved on consent) – These Resolutions grant CASF funding to WillitsOnline LLC (“WillitsOnline”) for the Westport Unserved and Underserved Broadband Project (“Westport Project”) and Boonville Underserved Broadband Project (“Boonville Project”).  The Westport Project generated $149,364 in funding.  The Boonville Project will be granted a total of $163,908 in grant and loan funding, $122,931 in grants and $40,977 in loans.  Both projects will extend high-speed internet service by deploying Mega Link ADSL2+ broadband service and offer speeds of up to 24 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload.

The Westport Project will extend high-speed internet service to 19.87 miles in Westport, a town on the northernmost edge of Mendocino County.  The project will deploy a hardened outdoor DSLA collocated next to an AT&T remote terminal.  Middle mile connectivity will be provided by wireless microwave communications technology.  When completed, the project will reach an estimated 126 households (60 unserved and 66 underserved) and deliver broadband at advertised speeds of 6 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload.  It is estimated that an initial 20-25 potential households will subscribe in the proposed area when the project is completed.

The Boonville project will extend high-speed internet service to 38.48 square miles in the City of Boonville, also located in Mendocino County.  The project proposes to use a Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (“DWDM”) fiber middle mile component on leased dark fiber.  WillitsOnline also proposes to install a switch that will be collated in Ukiah so it can gain the necessary access and provide regeneration services.  When completed, the project will reach an estimated 605 households and it is estimated that an initial 122 potential households will subscribe in the proposed service area.

The Draft Resolution underlying the Westport Project is available at the following link

The Draft Resolution underlying the Booneville Project is available at the following link:

New Fiscal Agent and Sponsor Agent Appointed for the Northeast California Connect Consortium and the Upstate California Connect Consortium (Item 12, approved on consent) – This Resolution approves the request of the California State University Chico Research Foundation, Office of Sponsored Programs (“Office of Sponsored Programs”) and the California State University Chico Geographic Information Center (“Geographic Information Center”) to become the new fiscal agent and sponsor agent, respectively, for the Northeast California Connect Consortium (“NCCC”) and the Upstate California Connect Consortium (“UCCC”).  Both Consortia were awarded grants by the Commission to fund the cost of broadband deployment activities.

The Commission previously approved the Corporation for Educational Network Initiatives in California (“CENIC”) as the fiscal agent and sponsor agent for both Consortia, and CENIC supports the requested change.  Both the NECCC and the UCCC were initially formed by the CSU Chico Center for Economic Development to participate in the work funded by the California Emerging Technology Fund and the Resolution finds that the goals of the two Consortia are better suited and more consistent with the mission, expertise, and experiences at CSU Chico.

The Final Resolution underlying this item is available at the following link

HELD ITEMS

Ponderosa’s Application for CASF Funding for the Beasore/Central Camp Project (Item 23, held by Peevey until 11/14/13) – This Resolution would grant $1,755,042 in CASF funding to Ponderosa for the Beasore/Central Camp Last Mile Unserved and Underserved Broadband Project (“Beasore/Central Camp Project”).  This project would extend high-speed internet service to 3.49 square miles covering the Beasore and Central Camp communities of Madera County.  The project would also provide safety-enhancing landline telephone service in an area where there is currently none. 

This project would install fiber-to-the-home connections capable of 50 Mbps downstream throughput and 20 Mbps upstream, and would provide internet, telephone, and potentially video services to an area completely unserved by landlines.  

The Draft Resolution underlying this item is available at the following link

Petition for Rulemaking on the Privacy Practices of Telecommunications Corporations (Items 46 and 46a, held by staff until 11/14/13) – This item would address the Petition for Rulemaking by a group of consumer groups who are asking the Commission to examine privacy issues for telecommunications carriers.  Commissioner Ferron’s proposed decision would refuse to open the rulemaking, while Commissioner Sandoval’s alternate recommends granting the petition in part and initiating a proceeding to examine the issue.
 
On November 8, 2012, the Consumer Federation of California, The Utility Reform Network, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (“Joint Consumers”) filed Petition for Rulemaking (“Petition”) to modify the privacy practices telecommunications carriers filed.  The Petitioners requested that the Commission open a new rulemaking to review the privacy practices of telecommunications carriers and to develop wireless privacy standards. 
 
The Proposed Decision issued by Commissioner Ferron would deny the Joint Consumers petition and would find that it is not clear that a review of telecommunications companies’ privacy practices in California is necessary at this time.  The Proposed Decision would recognize the importance of protecting the privacy of customer information, and notes that the Commission is addressing issues related to privacy of energy user data in the ongoing Smart Grid proceeding.  However, the Proposed Decision would find that the Petition fails to provide examples of actual breaches of customer privacy by telecommunications corporations.  The Proposed Decision would also conclude that current federal and state laws exist to govern the treatment of potentially sensitive customer information held by telecommunications providers, as well as businesses in general.  Finally, the Proposed Decision would conclude that the Petition fails to clearly identify the types of information the petitioners believe are accessible to or collected by telecommunications corporations that are not currently protected by CPNI and other existing privacy protections. 
 
On October 2nd, Commissioner Sandoval issued an Alternate Proposed Decision granting in part the Joint Consumers’ Petition.  The Alternate would open a rulemaking that focuses on the privacy practices of telephone corporations under its jurisdiction (recognizing that the Commission has no jurisdiction over third parties).  While the Alternate acknowledges that existing federal and state standards already exist to protect consumer information, it nevertheless concludes that gaps exist between federal and state regulations that must be reviewed due to changes in telecommunications technology. 
 
A copy of the Proposed Decision underlying this item is available at the following link

A copy of the Proposed Alternate is available at the following link

COMMISSIONER REPORTS

Commissioner Sandoval announced the recent release of the LifeLine proposed decision that would expand the LifeLine program to wireless and VoIP technologies.  She thanked Bill Johnston, the Communications Division team, and ALJ Bushey for their hard work in preparing the proposed decision.  She then reported that she led a panel on the California Teleconnect Fund (“CTF”) with Communications Division Director Ryan Dulin and noted that the broadband meetings conducted in Redding before the last Commission meeting were helpful in addressing the issues raised in that panel.  She then raised concerns with the new testing standards established for California schools, which require school children to take interactive tests that may include video streaming.  She explained that this new testing standard will pose significant difficulties in rural areas where broadband infrastructure is not available and will not allow schools to conduct this type of testing.  She further noted that schools in rural areas are preparing for these new standards by busing hundreds of students to areas where broadband is available.  She then observed that a nexus exists between the lack of broadband infrastructure and greenhouse gases, as the lack of broadband access often forces consumers to drive long distances to areas with broadband access.   

The Safety and Enforcement Division (“SED”)  offered a presentation on pole overloading and summarized a pole loading study from Southern California Edison Company (“SCE”).  SED reported that there are more than 4 million poles in California that support electric, phone, cable, antennas, and fire alarm circuits.  The results of the SCE study revealed that 23.7% of poles in high fire threat areas were overloaded and 21.3% of poles in non-high fire threat areas were overloaded.  The Commissioners expressed concern at the high percentage of overloaded poles in high-fire safety areas and asked SED to address these concerns.  SED will be taking the findings from the SCE study and will prepare specific recommendations to address the safety issues.

A copy of the SED’s PowerPoint presentation slides is attached to this email. 
 
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If you have questions regarding any of the above items, or the underlying proceedings in which they arose, please feel free to contact us.

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