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On December 2, 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly-scheduled agenda meeting.  The Commission granted “LifeLine only” ETC status to Cricket Communications in its footprint in California, including in rural company territories,  without requiring Cricket  to meet the “study area” requirement under federal law.  The Commission also authorized the preparation of comments on the FCC’s Mobility Fund proposal, and authorized Commission staff to prepare a system for web posting of the number of contacts made to the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Branch by customers with “Limited English Proficiency.”  The Draft Resolution addressing CHCF-A 2010 residual funding and the Proposed Decision  on CEQA requirements for wireline telecommunications carriers were held.  Much of the meeting was spent fielding public comments regarding the alleged health problems caused by electromagnetic fields emanating from PG&E’s recently-installed smart meters.  Despite outcry from these public speakers, the Commission declined to revisit its decisions to permit PG&E’s installation of the technology.  These and other items of interest on the Commission’s public agenda are discussed in further detail below.


REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS


  • Cricket Communications, Inc. Granted ETC Status In its Wireless Footprint in California (Item 8, adopted on consent agenda) – This Resolution approves the request of Cricket Communications Inc (Cricket) for eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) designation in California, thereby giving Cricket access to federally-subsidies for offering LifeLine and Link-up services.  In  an unusual last minute reversal  late in the afternoon before the scheduled agenda meeting, the  staff substantially rewrote  the resolution from one that would have denied Cricket’s designation in Small LEC territories  to one that grants such designation.  This Resolution bases its grant of ETC status on  seemingly  inaccurate statements from the previously-enacted decision in the LifeLine docket (D.10-11-033)  which concluded without any basis  in the record that “there is sufficient wireless coverage in Small LEC territories.”   Further, the Resolution  adopted by the Commission appears to ignore federal law requiring that Cricket either match the “study area” of underlying rural ILECs or go through the process of modifying those “study areas.”  The Revised Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here
  • Comments to be Provided to FCC In the Matter of Universal Service Reform (Mobility Fund) (Item 45, adopted on consent agenda) – This item endorses the recommendation from the Commission’s Legal Division to comment on the FCC’s creation of a “Mobility Fund” using reserves accumulated in the Universal Service Fund (USF) to make one-time support available to service providers to cost-effectively extend coverage in specified unserved areas.  The FCC proposes to use $100-$300 million from the USF to create the Mobility Fund, to identify areas unserved by 3G mobile wireless services, and to use a reverse auction to determine which providers and which geographic areas get support, as well as the levels of that support.  Comments on this proposal are due on December 16, 2010.  The Commission will file comments questioning the need for the Mobility Fund.  The Commission will also question the FCC’s proposal to purchase broadband mapping data from a third-party source rather than using the broadband data gathered by the states.  The Commission will support the concept of a reverse auction to choose how money is assigned under the Mobility Fund, should such a fund be created.  Finally, the Commission will recommend that Mobility Fund recipients be designated as ETCs, and that roll-out and service quality requirements be applied to Mobility Fund recipients.  The memorandum associated with this item is available here
  • EMF Safety Network’s Application to Initiate Commission Investigation into Health and Safety Effects of Radio Frequency Emissions from Smart Meters (Item 2, adopted 4-1, Commissioner Ryan dissenting) – By this Decision, the Commission denies EMF Safety Network’s application to modify two prior Commission decisions approving the Smart Meter Project, and its request that the Commission initiate an investigation into the health and safety effects of radio frequency (RF) emissions from smart meters.  The Decision finds that the RF emissions are one  six-  thousandth of the Federal health standard at a distance of 10 feet from the Smart Meter and far below the RF emissions of many commonly used devices, and therefore  concludes that it is inappropriate to reopen the Commission’s prior Smart Meter decisions.  
     
    In the face of the usual parade of objectors to the Smart Meter program, the Commissioners spoke strongly in support of notreopening the matter for consideration of additional health and safety concerns.  Commissioner Bohn relied on the fact the levels of RF emissions are far below those currently allowed by the FCC, and deferred to the FCC’s finding (based on studies from the World Health Organization, Environmental Protection Agency, and others) regarding the safety of RF emissions.  Commissioner Bohn noted that the FCC’s finding is “reasonable, prudent and fully consistent with the Commission’s responsibility to protect safety.”  Commissioner Bohn noted that if there are concerns, they should be taken to the FCC for resolution. 
     
    Bohn also noted that “any health and safety concern should be viewed on a statewide and industry-wide basis,” and stated that he was “not opposed to pursuing more in-depth study of impact of RF.”  Commissioner Grueneich felt that it was appropriate for the Commission Staff to research the issue, “prepare a white paper and work with other agencies so that there is a way to really look everybody in the eye and say we’ve addressed this issue and that we’re taking the right steps.”  The Proposed Decision is available here.   
  • Mobilitie, LLC Granted Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Item 17, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision grants a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to Mobilitie, LLC to provide full facilities-based and resold local exchange services in the service territories of Pacific Bell Telephone d/b/a AT&T California (AT&T), Verizon California, Inc. (Verizon), Citizens Telecommunications Company of California, Inc., d/b/a Frontier Communications of California (Frontier) and SureWest Communications (SureWest), and resold interexchange telecommunications services statewide. Mobilitie is a Nevada LLC that proposes to provide both intrastate and interstate services on a “Distributed Antenna System”, customized to the transport and backhaul needs of carrier customers, that may include services related to fiber-based backhaul for macro, micros, and pico cellular sites, as well as enterprise data networking services to internet service providers or other large enterprise data customers.  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here
  • Broadvox-CLEC, LLC Granted Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Item 27, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision grants a CPCN to Broadvox-CLEC, LLC (Broadvox) to provide resold and limited facilities-based local exchange and interexchange telecommunications services in the service territories of AT&T, Verizon, SureWest and Frontier.  The Decision follows a settlement agreement between Broadvox and the Commission’s Consumer Protection and Safety Division (CPSD) that resolved CPSD’s initial protest that some of Broadvox’s officers had held or were currently holding officer positions with other telecommunications carriers that have been sanctioned for regulatory violations in other states.  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here
  • Statutory Deadline Extended in Level 3 Communications v. Hypercube Telecom, LLC Case (Item 25, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision extends the 12-month statutory deadline for resolving adjudicatory matters, based on an application for rehearing of a closely related Commission decision (D.10-05-029) involving the same parties and similar set of facts. The underlying case here involves Level 3 Communications, LLC’s (Level 3) attempt to enjoin and restrain Hypercube Telecom, LLC (Hypercube) from kicking back or remitting a portion of the rates or charges to the services it provides to Level 3 to wireless carriers, and from charging Level 3 for those remitted rates and charges.  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
  • Decision Extending Statutory Deadline in i2c, Inc. v. AT&T (Item 26, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision extends the 12-month statutory deadline for resolving adjudicatory matters, based on pending settlement negotiations between the parties.  The underlying case here involves i2c, Inc.’s claim that AT&T is illegally setting its rates in violation of General Order 168 (Market Rules to Empower Telecommunications Consumers and to Prevent Fraud).  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here
  • Decision Extending Statutory Deadline in O1 Communications, Inc. v. Verizon California, Inc.  (Item 28, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision extends the 12-month statutory deadline for resolving two related adjudicatory matters to provide the Commission with additional time to prepare a Presiding Officer’s Decision.  This additional time is necessary given the complex procedural history of this matter and the press of other Commission business.  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here
  • Decision Extending Statutory Deadline in Consolidated Cases Brought by Pac-West Telecomm, Inc. Against Various Carriers For Failure to Pay Termination Fees (Item 29, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision extends the 12-month statutory deadline for resolving these adjudicatory matters, to provide the Commission with additional time to address the complex issues concerning the interaction of state and federal telecommunications law, as well as motions to dismiss in all of the related matters.  The underlying complaint by Pac-West Telecomm, Inc. (Pac-West) alleges that defendants – carriers that provide Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) and transmit CMRS traffic to Pac-West for termination, have wrongfully refused to pay Pac-West for termination services, and that the defendants should be required to pay an amount equal to the termination rate in Pac-West’s intrastate tariff.  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.  
     


SIGNIFICANT HELD OR WITHDRAWN ITEMS


  • Draft Resolution Addressing Small LECs’ California High Cost Fund-A Administrative Committee Fund Adjustments Authorized for Calendar Year 2010 (Item 3, held until January 13, 2011 by Staff) – This Draft Resolution would resolve residual funding items for the Small LECs for 2010.  In October 2009, the 14 small Local Exchange Carriers (Small LECs) made their annual CHCF-A advice letter filings, requesting total CY 2010 CHCF-A support of $38.886 million.  On January 21, the Commission authorized $35.535 million in funding for 2010, and deferred a decision on requested carrier adjustments related to (1) revenue effects associated with National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA) separations methodology changes; (2) revenue effects associated with virtual NXX calls; and (3) revenue effect associated with wireless intercarrier compensation. 
     
    Although the Commission staff is still considering the issues, the Draft Resolution would address the three deferred items by: (1) rejecting the proposed NECA separations methodology revenue adjustments; (2) approving Foresthill and Kerman’s request for a CHCF-A adjustment related to the implementation of intercarrier compensation agreements with 01 Communications in the total amount of $77,972; and (3) disallowing claims for the revenue effect of wireless intercarrier compensation changes.  The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here
  • Proposed Decision Adopting General Order 170 Specifying Review Procedures Pursuant to California Environmental Quality Act (Item 39, held until December 16, 2010 by Commissioner Bohn) – This Proposed Decision would adopt General Order 170 setting forth Commission procedures for reviewing telephone corporations’ proposed construction projects pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  The new General Order 170 would institute a new process that would  involve PUC review of a large  number of construction projects  that are currently subject to environmental analysis by local jurisdictions.  The Proposed Decision and proposed new General Order 170 are available here
  • Consumer Affairs Branch to Publish Contact Data Regarding Limited-English Proficiency Issues (Item 44, adopted on consent agenda) – This Resolution implements a portion of the Commission’s Decision 08-10-016 requiring Commission staff to periodically post its Consumers Affairs Branch (CAB) Limited-English Proficiency issues on the Commission’s website.  Despite numerous comments from a variety of carriers pointing out implementation problems with the proposal for web posting, the Resolution was adopted without significant changes.  The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
  • Draft Order Instituting Rulemaking to Require Interconnected VoIP Providers to Contribute to the Support of California’s Universal Service Programs (Item 40, held until December 16, 2010 by Staff) – By this item, the Commission would institute a Rulemaking to add California providers of interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service to the category of voice service providers required to fund California’s universal service programs.  The Commission would rely on the FCC’s recognition that interconnected VoIP providers must report and contribute to the parallel federal fund, and has recently concluded that “The application of state universal service contribution requirements to interconnected VoIP providers does not conflict with federal policies, and could, in fact promote them.”  The Commission’s stated objective in this Rulemaking would be to “ensure that the California universal service programs are supported in a competitively and technologically neutral manner, and that contributions to the programs are sufficient to preserve and advance universal service.”  The Draft Order Instituting Rulemaking is available here.  


MANAGEMENT AND COMMISSIONER REPORTS


  • Commissioner Ryan Comments about Lifting of Basic Service Rate Caps for URF Carriers on January 1, 2011 — Commissioner Ryan commented on the upcoming elimination of the rate cap for basic telephone service and its effect on California’s LifeLine program.  Ryan has sent a memo to Executive Director Clanon requesting that he direct the Communication Division to monitor pricing in voice services marketplace (including wireless and VoIP providers) “to see if the expected benefits of market competition are actually being realized.” 

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