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On July 8, 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly-scheduled agenda meeting.  Although the meeting was very short, the Commission adopted several telecommunications-related items on the consent agenda, including a revocation of a $7.8 million CASF grant and the initiation of comments on several FCC matters related to implementation of the National Broadband Plan.  These and other telecommunications items of interest on the Commission’s agenda are discussed in further detail below.


REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS


  •  CPUC Revokes $7.8 Million in California Advanced Services Funds Set Aside for the Highway 299 Project (Item 10, adopted on consent agenda) – In February 2009, the Commission awarded $7,830,720 in California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) funding to Broadband Associates International (BBA) for its Highway 299 broadband project in portions of Humboldt, Trinity, and Shasta Counties. The award was contingent on BBA obtaining a loan to fund 60% of the project cost, and obtaining permits to use micro-trenching in laying the fiber lines.  BBA was unable to obtain the loan or permits, so this Proposed Resolution nullifies the original grant, disencumbering the funds allocated for the project, and opens up the original Census Block Groups (CBG) allocated to the project for other potential CASF project proposals.  The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
  • $1.6 Million in Contingent Funding Awarded for the Siskiyou County Economic Development Council Middle Mile Project (Item 11, adopted on consent agenda) – This Proposed Resolution adopts $1,697,029 in CASF contingent funding for the Siskiyou County Economic Development Council (SCEDC) project, which will be able to deliver service to 18,573 households covering an area of about 62.7 square miles in underserved areas in Siskiyou County.  The only services currently offered to the majority of residents in the area are dial-up or very low speed Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) services, and the upgrades under this project will provide speeds of up to 10 megabits/second (Mbps) download, 1 Mbps upload retail, and average speeds of 100 Mbps minimum wholesale.  The Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.    
  • CPUC Comments Before FCC in the Matter of Connect America Fund, a National Broadband Plan for Our Future High-Cost Universal Service Support (Item 35, adopted on consent agenda) – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking comment on (1) whether it should use a model to help determine universal service support levels in areas where there is no private sector business case to provide broadband and voice services; (2) the best way to create an accelerated process to target funding toward new deployment of broadband networks in unserved areas, and (3) specific common-sense reforms to cap growth and cut inefficient funding in the legacy high-cost support mechanisms and to shift the savings toward broadband communications.  Commission Staff recommends that the CPUC not take a position on use of the National Broadband Plan model, but that any model adopted by the FCC include a minimum level of federal funding to each state, that states with programs to provide subsidies for broadband deployment get priority funding, a mechanism to incent states to invest in their own infrastructure, and inclusion of satellite service in calculation of availability and investment gaps.  Staff further recommends that the Commission support a cap on existing legacy high-cost support at 2010 funding levels, support the transition over a 10-year period from funding of legacy voice wirelines to funding of broadband deployment and high quality voice service in high cost unserved areas, urge the FCC to amend separations methodology, and support the FCC proposal to eliminate high-cost support to competitive ETCs in five years.  The Memorandum associated with this item is available here
  • CPUC Comments Before FCC in the Matter of Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism (Item 36, adopted on consent agenda) – The FCC seeks comment on how to provide stability and certainty for the funding of connections necessary to deliver higher bandwidth services to classrooms and how to expand access to funding for connections for schools and libraries serving impoverished populations.  By this Proposed Memorandum, the Commission approves Staff recommendations to file comments supporting the FCC proposals to streamline the E-rate applications process, phasing out traditional voice services in favor of broadband access, and supporting an interim pilot program to determine costs and impacts of a proposed plan to fund use of wireless broadband internet access away from school premises.  The Memorandum associated with this item is available here.
  • CPUC Comments Before FCC in the Matter of Framework for Broadband Internet Service (Item 38, adopted on consent agenda) – Given the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s recent overturning of the FCC’s reliance on Title 1 of the Telecommunications Act in connection with its jurisdiction over broadband,  the FCC seeks comments on the current legal framework by which it promotes investment and innovation in, and protects consumers of, broadband Internet service.  Specifically, it requests comments on three options: (1) keep broadband access regulated under Title I; (2) regulate broadband under Title II; or (3) regulate broadband by (a) reaffirming that internet information services should remain generally unregulated; (b) identify the internet connectivity service offered as part of wired broadband internet service as a telecommunications service; and (c) forbear from applying all provisions of Title II other than those needed to implement FCC policies of universal service, competition and small business opportunity.  The Proposed Memorandum states that Title I should not be used for broadband regulation, and that if the FCC asserts jurisdiction under Title II it should do so in a very limited manner so as to ensure continued growth and development of both technology and content.  It further recommends that the FCC forbear from imposing many aspects of traditional common carrier regulation on Internet access providers.  The Memorandum associated with this item is available here
  • CPUC Position Before Federal State Joint Board on Universal Service in the Matter of Lifeline-Link-Up Eligibility, Verification and Outreach Issues (Item 40, adopted on consent agenda) – This item permits Commission Staff to file comments on the Federal State Joint Board on Universal Service’s proceeding to determine whether it should recommend any changes to the eligibility, verification and outreach elements of the existing Lifeline-Link-Up programs, in view of the technological and marketplace changes since those requirements were first established.  The Staff recommends comments providing an overview of the Commission’s Lifeline program eligibility, opposition to setting uniform criteria for eligibility that would apply to all states, opposition to FCC suggestions that require more or different documentation from consumers than already required, conditional support of a federal mandate for automatic enrollment in lifeline programs, addressing problems with proposals requiring an electronic certification process, how to avoid multiplicity of consumer’s Lifeline-supported services, and recommending pilot programs to expand the federal program.  The Staff’s Memorandum is available here
  • CPUC to Provide Comments on FCC Forbearance Petitions, AB 1315 (Fuentes) – Item 46 (adopted on consent agenda) – AB 1315 would provide that if an incumbent local exchange carrier files a forbearance petition with the FCC requesting that it forbear from enforcing that carrier’s duty to provide nondiscriminatory access to network elements in California, the CPUC would be required to first determine if the petition meets certain legal requirements, and if the PUC determines that the petition fails to meet those requirements, to timely submit a motion for summary denial of the petition with the FCC.  The Staff’s position on this issue was not made available at the meeting. 
  • Rates for Cross-Connections Established Between XO Communications Services, Inc. and AT&T California (Item 12, adopted on consent agenda) – This Proposed Decision holds that Pacific Bell Telephone Company d/b/a AT&T California (AT&T California) must provide cross-connection services to XO Communications Services, Inc. (XO), including cables between collocation cages and main distribution frames, at total element long-run incremental cost (TELRIC) rates.  The issue in dispute between the parties was what rate AT&T could charge XO for cross-connection – AT&T California interpreted its interconnection agreement (ICA) and federal law as permitting it to charge rates established in its federal special access tariff, and XO interpreted the ICA and related federal requirements as requiring AT&T California to provide cross-connection at TELRIC rates, in particular disputing the legality of AT&T California’s substantial Mileage Transport Fee.  The Decision endorses XO’s position.  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here
  • Customer Complaint Against AT&T California for Unlawful Disconnection Dismissed (Item 16, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision dismisses a case filed against AT&T California alleging unlawful disconnection of phone service, for complainant’s failure to appear for a May 28, 2010 hearing.  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
  • Customer Granted Partial Relief Based on Cramming Allegations Against Verizon (Item 18, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision awards $500 to a Verizon California customer who alleged that she had been crammed, and that Verizon had failed to recognize the unlawful charges for a period of approximately 12 years.  The Decision grants a $500 refund to the customer, and finds that the customer was in fact “double-billed” for a significant period of time.  Verizon’s previous credits to the customer and the statute of limitations barred any further recovery.  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here
  • Statutory Deadline Extended for Resolution of AT&T/FONES4ALL Complaint Case in Light of FONES4ALL Bankruptcy Filing  (Item 19, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission extended the statutory deadline in proceedings between Fones4All Corporation and AT&T California for one year until August 2, 2011 to allow for the resolution of Fones4All’s bankruptcy proceeding and the issuance of a Presiding Officer’s Decision on any unresolved issues in the consolidated docket.

    Fones4All originally filed a complaint against AT&T California (formerly Pacific Bell Telephone Company) in December of 2007 seeking an order compelling AT&T to immediately insert toll blocking for each of Fones4All’s customers, an order requiring AT&T to refund all monies attributable to improperly billed toll charges and directory assistance call completion, an order compelling AT&T to immediately compensate Fones4All for the slamming of its customers, an order compelling AT&T to remit exemplary damages to Fones4All, and a declaratory judgment that AT&T unlawfully slammed Fones4All’s customers, breached its contractual duty to block toll calls, breached its contractual duty to provide pre-ordering functionality, and violated a Commission decision by overcharging Fones4All for UNE service. AT&T counterclaimed, demanding that Fones4All pay all amounts due under the interconnection agreement for the lease of all unbundled loops and wholesale telecommunications services in the total amount of more than $2.59 million, including late payment charges. The bankruptcy proceeding automatically stayed all proceedings surrounding AT&T’s counterclaims, and the Commission determined that proceedings surrounding the original claim also should be extended given the interconnectedness of all claims between the parties. The Proposed Decision extending the statutory deadline is available here.

  • Compensation Awarded to The Utility Reform Network and Disability Rights Advocates for Contributions to Battery Backup Power Proceeding (Items 22, 23, adopted on consent agenda) – These Proposed Decisions award compensation in the amount of $125,785.37 to The Utility Reform Network (TURN) and $59,386.74 to Disability Rights Advocates, in the Commission’s investigation into reliability standards for telecommunications emergency backup power systems.  That Decision: (1) adopted guidelines for customer education programs for facilities-based providers of telephony services who provide service to residential customers via technologies that require backup power on the customer’s premises; (2) directed service providers to enhance their existing customer education programs to meet these new guidelines; and (3) required service providers to file an advice letter within 180 days of the decision, detailing their customer education programs.  The Final Decisions associated with these items are available here and here.
  • $193,183.26 in Intervenor Compensation Awarded to The Utility Reform Network in Telecommunications Service Quality Standards Proceeding (Item 24, adopted on consent agenda) – This Proposed Decision grants intervenor compensation in the amount of $193,183.26 to TURN for its substantial contributions to Decision 09-07-019 finding that while telecommunications service quality measures need to be streamlined to reflect a more competitive environment, that there is still a need for service quality measures to protect consumers.  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.  


SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS


  • CPUC Position Before Federal State Joint Board on Universal Service in the Matter of Lifeline-Link-Up Eligibility, Verification and Outreach Issues (Item 37, withdrawn) – This item would have permitted Commission Staff to file comments on the Federal State Joint Board on Universal Service’s proceeding to determine whether it should recommend any changes to the eligibility, verification and outreach elements of the existing Lifeline-Link-Up programs, in view of the technological and marketplace changes since those requirements were first established.  No proposed Memorandum associated with this item was provided at the meeting.
  • CPUC Position on Department of Energy’s Request for Comments on Implementing the National Broadband Plan by Studying Communications Requirements of Electric Utilities (Item 41, withdrawn) – The Department of Energy has requested comments regarding the present and future communications needs of electric utilities as Smart Grid technologies are deployed across the United States.  Staff sought authority to file comments due July 12, 2010, with reply comments due on July 26, 2010.  No proposed Memorandum associated with this item was provided at the meeting.
  • CPUC Position on 911 Warmline Bill (Item 44, held to July 29, 2010 by Staff) – SB 1375 (Price) would modify the current “warmline” requirements under Public Utilities Code Section 2883. 
  • Proposed Decision Granting CPCN to Broadvox-CLEC, LLC (Item 15, held to 7/29/10 by Commissioner Simon) – This Proposed Decision would approve a settlement agreement by which a CPCN would be granted to Broadvox-CLEC, LLC (Broadvox) to provide resold and limited facilities-based and resold telecommunications services in the California service territories of AT&T, Verizon California Inc., SureWest Telephone, and Citizens Telecommunications, and interexchange services statewide, and requiring Broadvox to pay a $5,000 fine for failure to disclose a previous bankruptcy of an affiliate and regulatory violations by its affiliates.  The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here
     
           

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