On July 30, 2009, the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) held its regularly scheduled agenda meeting. The meeting was well attended despite the summer scheduling and fact that, for the first time in several weeks, there were no public speakers. The principal item of interest on the regular agenda was the Order Instituting Rulemaking to review and potentially amend General Order 156, the Commission’s General Order devoted to supplier diversity. The Commission was set to consider whether to take a position on the pending CASF bill (AB 1555), but that item was mooted by the Legislature’s adoption of the bill. AB 1555 will allow all entities that are eligible for ARRA funding to apply for a match under the CASF. In addition, Governor Schwarzenegger designated the CPUC as California’s mapping entity for purposes of compliance with NTIA’s state broadband data and development grant program, and Commissioner Chong noted that the CPUC would “soon” be asking the carriers for broadband data for this purpose. This and other telecommunications items of significance on the Commission’s agenda are discussed in further detail below.
REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS
- Order Instituting Rulemaking Issued to Review and Potentially Amend GO 156, Consider Measures to Promote Economic Efficiencies of Expanded Supplier Base, and Examine Workforce Composition(Item 51, adopted 5-0). General Order 156 sets forth rules governing the development of programs to increase the participation of women, minority, and disabled veteran business enterprises in procurement of contracts from utilities as required by Public Utilities Code sections 8281-8286. The General Order was adopted in 1988 and the current version was adopted in 2006. By this order, the CPUC adopted a rulemaking to review and potentially amend G.O. 156, to consider measures to promote economic efficiencies of an expanded supplier base, develop green energy procurement, and examine workforce composition. IIn discussing the item, President Peevey relied heavily on the success of G.O. 156 in his strong support of this rulemaking, noting that the concern about the changing demographics in California and an aging workforce are leading to concerns that the utilities must maintain a broadly diverse and trained workforce to ensure continuity of service. Calling it a “fundamental first step to begin a long overdue dialogue,” President Peevey noted that this rulemaking will allow California to develop policies and programs to ensure that “green collar” jobs are broadly available. Commissioners Chong and Simon echoed President Peevey’s comments regarding the overwhelming success of G.O. 156. Commissioner Bohn gave an extended speech noting some concerns with the proposed rulemaking, and in particularly warned that the CPUC must stay cognizant of the state constitutional limitations on the Commission’s authority in light of constitutional restrictions on state-sanctioned preferential treatment.
- Statutory Deadline Extended in Qwest Communications Company, LLC v. MCImetro Access Transmission Services, LLC, et al. (Item 36, adopted on consent agenda) – This case involves Qwest Communications Corporation’s (Qwest) complaint filed August 1, 2008 against various other competitive local exchange carriers, alleging that the defendant CLECs have subjected Qwest to unjust and unreasonable rate discrimination in connection with the provision of intrastate switched access services. Qwest claims that the Defendant CLEC’s entered into unfiled, off-tariff individual case basis agreements with select interexchange carriers and failed to make those same rates, terms and conditions available to Qwest. Qwest has since filed a First Amended Complaint and several of the CLECs have filed answers, with a prehearing conference scheduled for July 29, 2009. Given the established schedule for the proceeding, the Commission found that it will not be possible to resolve the case within the one-year period required under Public Utilities Code § 1701.2(d) and extended the deadline to August 1, 2010. This decision is available here.
- Revoking 82 Wireless Identification Registrations for Failure to Comply With Public Utilities Code Section 401 (Filing of CPUC Reimbursement Account Reports and Payment of Applicable Fees), Resolution T-17206 (Item 48, originally on regular agenda, added to consent agenda) – This resolution revokes 82 Wireless Identification Registrations (WIRs) for failure to comply with Public Utilities Code Sections 401-435, which collectively require telephone carriers including WIRs to file reports with the CPUC which show the amount of California Intrastate revenue earned. The Communications Division sent two notices out of their duty to comply with the report/fee submission to the affected carriers who all failed to respond. The draft resolution is available here.
- Alliance Global Networks LLC Granted a Nondominant Interexchange Carrier Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity(Item 15, adopted on consent agenda) – Alliance Global Networks LLC (AGN) filed an application on March 9, 2009 for registration as a switchless interexchange carrier telephone corporation, and sought an exemption from tariff requirements. The Commission’s Consumer Protection and Safety Division (CPSD) filed a protest to AGN’s application, requesting the Commission’s analysis of three issues related to the application: (1) non-disclosure of at least two formal complaints granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against AGN’s affiliate Alliance Group Services, Inc. (AGSi); (2) non-disclosure of other AGSi slamming complaints, four of which were filed with the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Branch (CAB), one in Indiana and one in New Jersey; and (3) failure to accurately report the status of a Commission proceeding against AGSi. The Commission reviewed the issues and AGN’s response and concluded that AGN’s application for registration as a switchless reseller of inter-LATA services conformed to the Commission’s rules as its omission of informal or pending complaints does not constitute a violation of Rule of Practice and Procedure 1.1. Moreover, those actions have not resulted in sanctions, and AGN is financially and technically qualified to provide its requested service. The Proposed Decision of ALJ Galvin is available here.
- Statutory Deadline Extended in Utility Consumers’ Action Network (Complainant) vs. Sprint Telephony PCS, LP, et al (Item 37, adopted on consent agenda) – This case involves Utility Consumers Action Network’s (UCAN) complaint filed August 25, 2008 against Sprint Telephony PCS, LP and related entities (“Sprint”) regarding Sprint’s “Pioneer Program” a residential and business telephone service plan. UCAN alleges that via this program Sprint imposed unauthorized charges to customers, failed to respond to complaints about these charges, breached contracts between Sprint and numerous customers, and failed to follow CPUC orders.. On June 12, 2009, the parties submitted a joint status report indicating that they have been engaged in active settlement discussions, and have been granted an extension of time until September 15, 2009 to continue those discussions. Accordingly, the Commission found that it will not be possible to resolve the case within the one-year period required under Public Utilities Code § 1701.2(d) and extended the deadline to August 25, 2010. This decision is available here.
- Scope of Smart Grid Technologies Proceeding Modified (R) 08-12-009 (Item 25, adopted on consent agenda) – This ongoing rulemaking involves the CPUC’s own motion to actively guide policy in California’s development of a Smart Grid System and technologies pursuant to federal legislation. All electrical carriers were initially made respondents. PacificCorp, dba Pacific Power and the Sierra Pacific Power Company (“Sierra Pacific”) asked to be excused from mandatory participation in the proceedings, and the California Association of Small and Multi-jurisdictional Utilities (“CASMU”) asked that the scope of the rulemaking be reduced to exclude Bear Valley Electric Service, Mountain Utilities, PacifiCorp, and Sierra Pacific from active participation. This decision excuses those utilities from mandatory participation, but notes that they will be bound by the outcome of the proceeding.
- Public Wireless, Inc. Granted Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to Provide Full Facilities-Based and Resold Competitive Local Exchange, Access and Interexchange Service (Item 33, adopted on consent agenda) – Public Wireless, Inc. applied for a certificate of public convenience and necessity in order to provide full facilities-based and resold competitive local exchange, access, and nondominant interexchange services in territories currently served by Pacific Bell Telephone Company dba AT&T California, Verizon California Inc., SureWest Telephone, and Citizens Telephone Company. Public Wireless also applied for authority to be a nondominant interexchange carrier in California. Specifically, Public Wireless intends to provide “gap” coverage for wireless providers, and intends to design and build alternative wireless siting solutions for placement in areas where traditional development costs and/or zoning and permitting processes have made deployment prohibitive. Public Wireless will deploy such networks by purchasing from cable companies, and reselling to wireless carriers, the right to install equipment on cable strands owned or controlled by cable providers. Public Wireless will also install and operate equipment to support backhaul services for wireless voice service providers. The Commission’s draft decision granting the Certificate is available here.
- Compensation Granted to The Utility Reform Network (TURN) for Substantial Contributions to Decision (D) 08-09-015 (Item 43, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission granted The Utility Reform Network’s (TURN) request for compensation in the amount of $182,201.82 (a decrease of 9.5% from amount requested) for its substantial contributions to D.08-09-015, a decision designed to revise URF carrier requirements to submit monitoring reports to the Commission, pricing flexibility for retail special access services, and the need for additional consumer disclosure rules. The decision is available here.
SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS
- AB 1555 (Perez) Urgency Bill to Permit Any Entity Offering Broadband Service to Apply to Participate in California Advanced Service Fund, for Purpose of Meeting the Match Requirement of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Item 52, withdrawn). The CPUC’s legislative subcommittee’s recommendation was to support this urgency bill to amend the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) program. The bill, enacted into law by Governor Schwarzenegger this Wednesday, permits any entity eligible for grants or loan programs under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to apply to participate in the CASF program for the sole purpose of seeking funds to help meet the ARRA matching fund requirement. The CPUC legislative subcommittee recommendation supported this bill on the grounds that it would encourage the deployment of broadband facilities to unserved and underserved areas of California by helping all California broadband service providers qualify for economic stimulus federal grant monies to deploy broadband facilities in these areas. Further grounds for support were that it would improve California entities’ prospects of receiving a broadband infrastructure grant award under the federal stimulus programs if the entity can use the CASF funds to help meet the federal matching fund requirement. The memorandum summarizing the CPUC’s recommendations is available here.
- Cox California Telcom, LLC (Complainant) vs. Pacific Centrex Services, Inc. (Defendants)(Item 9, held by staff until 8/20/09) – The CPUC held a final decision in the above-captioned matter ordering payment of unpaid call termination charges by Pacific Centrex Services, Inc. (“Pacific”) of $266,086.96 as of November 13, 2008 plus applicable late payment penalties and any additional termination charges and late payment penalties incurred under Cox California Telcom’s (“Cox”) Intrastate Tariff since November 13, 2008. Pacific Centrex late-filed an answer to Cox’s complaint, and failed to appear at a prehearing conference after requesting extensions of time to answer based upon representations that it was prepared to go forward with the case once it found new counsel. Finding a violation of Public Utilities Code § 702 (requiring public utilities’ compliance with orders, decisions, directions or rules made or prescribed by the Commission) and Rule 1.1 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure (parties appearing before the Commission agree “never to mislead the Commission or its staff by an artifice or false statement of fact or law”), the decision also fines Pacific $10,000 under threat of suspension of its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. This draft decision is available here.
- Transfer of Ownership of TGEC Communications Co., LLC. to West Coast Voice & Data, Inc., Approved (Item 10, held by staff until 8/20/09) – This item would approve the prospective transfer of TGEC Communications Co., LLC (“TGEC”) to West Coast Voice & Data, Inc. (“West Coast”). Because TGEC is a certified telecommunications provider in California and will continue to provide services in California as a wholly-owned subsidiary of West Coast, the parties did not seek to transfer TGEC’s operating authority in connection with the transaction. This draft decision is available here.
- Commissioner Simon on 9-1-1 Issues– Commissioner Simon hosted a meeting at the annual National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) conference earlier this month in Seattle addressing 9-1-1 issues. He publicly praised the efforts of Kings County, Washington to implement a cutting edge 9-1-1 pilot project using emerging technologies to provide state of the art notification services in the event of disasters. He strongly encouraged California telecommunications companies to look into this program, and consider similar measures.
- Commissioner Chong on ARRA Compliance and Mapping.
- Commissioner Chong highlighted the CPUC’s tremendous activity in supporting the AB 1555 outreach programs held all over the state. She reported that as of July 17, 2009, 17 broadband service provider applications had been filed, with 15 applying for ARRA funds, for a total amount of $96 million, serving 216,000 households and an area of 21,000 square miles. She further indicated that information would be posted on the CPUC website soon regarding the filed applications, and that the deadline for challenges to those requests is coming up. She also noted that the next application window for ARRA funding closes on August 14.
- Commissioner Chong also indicated that all states are working overtime on mapping exercises generated by ARRA. The FCC has asked the states to release information on mapping, and, according to Chong, California already has a head start on this. She indicated that in a recent NTIA workshop in Los Angeles, NTIA summarized its electronic application process that will be enabled as of July 31, 2009 as well as a tool to map carriers’ service areas. She emphasized that for these applications, the “devil was in the details” and that carriers should follow every instruction or NTIA might literally “throw out” a non-conforming application. She strongly encouraged carriers to submit their applications for CASF funding along with applications for federal grant money.
- Commissioner Chong also briefly mentioned that Governor Schwarzenegger last week designated the CPUC as state’s mapping entity. The CPUC expects to ask carriers to provide all the mapping data requested by NTIA “soon” so the carriers should be prepared to provide that information.
- Kyle Devine on In-Language Program Matters— CSID staff member Kyle Devine provided a summary report on the success of the Commission’s “in language” programs to work with community-based organizations (CBO) to provide “in language” telecommunications education and assistance with disputes to consumers who are non-and limited English proficient. Highlights of the program included expanded ethnic media coverage, legislative briefing which received positive feedback, and working with 30 CBOs providing assistance in 23 languages statewide.