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On June 7, 2007, the CPUC held its regularly-scheduled agenda meeting. The meeting was brief, but it included some significant telecommunications items. The Commission denied a CLEC petition seeking a relaxation of the Commission’s CEQA policies relative to new construction projects. The Commission also initiated a set of comments on the FCC’s broadband NPRM, and the staff provided an update on the recent changes to the LifeLine program. The Commission also established a new level for the CPUC reimbursement fee. These and other items of interest on the June 7, 2007 agenda are addressed in further detail below.


REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS

  • Commission Denies AboveNet Petition for Modification of CPCN to Permit Construction of Customer Connection Facilities Without New CEQA Review (Item 4, adopted on consent agenda) – AboveNet (formerly Metromedia Fiber Network Services, Inc.) sought a modification to its CPCN to allow it to construct connections between its fiber backbone and customers’ premises without triggering a need for project-specific CEQA review. By this decision, the Commission rejects AboveNet’s petition. The decision acknowledges that “different telecommunications carriers’ CPCNs contain different provisions concerning Commission review of further utility construction.” While some CPCNs do “not contain any limitations or restrictions on [the carrier’s] authority to construct extensions of its facilities,” AboveNet’s CPCN does “not address AboveNet’s right to construct its network or consider CEQA.” The most recent draft of the decision rejecting AboveNet’s petition to modify its CPCN is available at the following link: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/68221.doc. The decision notes that AboveNet may still seek “individualized review under CEQA” and that a change in CEQA policy that comes out of the CEQA rulemaking could override this decision.

  • New CPUC Reimbursement Fee Percentage Adopted, Res. M-4819 (Item 6, adopted on consent agenda) – Effective July 1, 2007, the Commission adopted a new CPUC reimbursement fee of 0.18%. Within 10 days, advice letters with any necessary tariff changes must be filed. The most recent draft of the resolution modifying the reimbursement fee level is available at the following link: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_RESOLUTION/68507.doc.

  • Commission Authorizes Comments in FCC’s Broadband Development Proceeding (Item 36, adopted on consent agenda) — This decision authorizes the Commission staff to draft comments on behalf of the CPUC on the FCC’s recent Notice of Proposed Rule Making addressing broadband data reporting, wireless broadband subscribership, and the development of data regarding interconnected VoIP. The FCC’s NPRM seeks comments regarding the how the FCC can gather better data regarding broadband availability, wireless broadband, and VoIP. The NPRM also solicits input regarding how high-speed broadband should be defined.

    By this item, the Commission endorsed the approach in a Legal Division memorandum summarizing staff’s proposed comments on the NPRM. Based on the approach outlined in the memorandum, the Commission will urge the FCC to gather more granular and more geographically-sensitive data regarding broadband availability. According to the CPUC, this data should include information about broadband penetration by customer classes. The CPUC will also argue that data must be collected by Census Block Groups, similar to how such data is being collected under the California video franchising legislation. Further, the CPUC’s comments will suggest that the original FCC broadband speed tiers be retained for comparison purposes, but that the FCC should focus on actual speeds experienced by customers rather than theoretical maximums. The comments will also call for expanded reporting on broadband pricing, and additional reporting regarding the extent to which wireless handsets are broadband-enabled and/or broadband-active. Finally, the Commission’s comments will argue that VoIP connections should be reported as “local telephone connections” in the FCC’s Form 477. The staff memorandum containing these recommended comments is attached at the following link: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/REPORT/68797.doc.

  • SureWest Interconnection Agreements Approved With MetroPCS and XO, Res. T-17085, T-17086 (Items 19, 20, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission approved a pair of SureWest interconnection agreements, one with MetroPCS and the other with XO. The agreement with MetroPCS addresses CMRS interconnection charges, reciprocal compensation, number portability, and emergency services issues. The agreement with XO establishes a bill and keep arrangement for the termination of local traffic between the parties, and provides for access to unbundled network elements, rights-of-way, emergency services, directory assistance, white pages directory listings, and number resources. The XO agreement also addresses resale and collocation issues. The most recent drafts of the decisions approving these agreements are attached at the following links: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_RESOLUTION/68264.doc and http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_RESOLUTION/68262.doc.

  • Cal-Ore Communications Granted CPCN to Provide Limited Facilities-Based and Resold Local Exchange Telecommunications Service (Item 25, adopted on consent agenda) — This decision approves Cal-Ore Communications’ application for authority to provide limited facilities-based and resold local exchange telecommunications services in AT&T’s service territory. This decision will permit Cal-Ore Communications to compete as a CLEC in AT&T’s territory. Cal-Ore Communications will be identified by the CPUC identification number “U 7035 C.” The most recent draft of the decision granting this CPCN application is available at the following link: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/68266.doc.


SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS

  • Proposed Decision Regarding Alleged Impermissible Ex Parte Contacts (Item 34, held by staff until 6/21 for possible alternate) – This decision would penalize both Cox and AT&T for allegedly engaging in impermissible ex parte contacts with Commissioner advisors with respect to an ongoing adjudicatory matter. The carriers contend that the ex parte contacts giving rise to these allegations were focused on a motion in a quasi-legislative proceeding rather than on the merits of the complaint cases. The decision would hold the carriers responsible for $40,000 in penalties, and for UCAN’s attorney fees incurred in connection with this dispute regarding the propriety of the carriers’ ex parte contacts. The current version of the decision on this matter is available at the following link: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/EFILE/PD/67718.pdf.


NOTES AND COMMISSIONER REPORTS

  • Report on Status of Recent LifeLine Program Changes — Communications Division Director Jack Leutza reported on the recent changes to the LifeLine program that were adopted in D.07-05-030. Leutza summarized the salient aspects of that decision, noting that additional customer reminder notices had been implemented to encourage prospective LifeLine customers to return their certification forms, and that the Commission’s certifying agent would be using auto-dialers to provide yet another layer of reminders to these customers. The LifeLine certification and verification materials will now be distributed to customers in pink envelopes that no longer contain the previous LifeLine logo that some customers had found confusing. Leutza also mentioned the ongoing data “true ups” that will be taking place between the LifeLine certifying agent and carriers. Further, Leutza emphasized that the LifeLine verification process (the process by which existing LifeLine customers’ eligibility is verified) has been partially reinstated, such that 20% of the customers who are subject to verification each month are being verified. The verification process will continue to expand throughout the remainder of the year, with the goal to completely reinstate the Commission’s verification procedures by December 2007. Director Leutza also discussed the expansions in the timeframes for returning LifeLine certification and verification documentation. Lastly, Leutza reported on the number of pending LifeLine appeals and customer complaints. The most recent figures indicate that there are 3,565 LifeLine appeals pending, and 3,299 LifeLine-related billing complaints pending (although there appears to be some overlap between these numbers). Call volume at the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Branch is expected to increase with the reinstatement of the verification process. A PowerPoint presentation used during Leutza’s remarks is available at the following link: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/static/aboutcpuc/cpuc01280804-v1-management_reports-ca_lifeline_agenda_3193-6_7_07_ppt.ppt.

    The Commissioners made some brief comments on Leutza’s report. Commissioner Grueneich recognized that complaints would likely increase based on the reinstatement of the verification process, but she reflected that it “makes a lot of sense” to verify customer eligibility in connection with a low-income program for administering discounted telephone service. She noted that “in the overall scheme of things, there will be people that were on the program before, and they will not be happy that they do not qualify.” Grueneich emphasized the need to express to non-qualifying customers that this is a federal requirement, and that the Commission has no choice but to implement that requirement. For those that do qualify for the program, but have had difficulties obtaining eligibility, Grueneich underscored the need for outreach and the need to ensure that the process is operating as smoothly as possible. Commissioner Simon expressed significant concern about the number of complaints, and asked that he be briefed by the Communications Division on how the equal protection and due process rights of customers are being protected in resolving these complaints.

  • Commissioner Chong Advisor Accepts Telecommunications Position with NARUC — Commissioner Chong announced that her senior telecommunications and legal advisor, Robert Haga, has accepted an appointment to the NARUC staff committee on universal service, and an appointment to the NARUC subcommittee on telecommunications. His term is effective from April of 2007 to April of 2008. Haga will continue to fulfill his duties as Chong’s advisor while serving on these NARUC committees.

  • Pam Nataloni Leaves Commissioner Simon’s Office for Legal Division — Commissioner Simon announced that his legal advisor, Pamela Nataloni, would be leaving to accept a position in the appellate group within the Commission’s Legal Division. Commissioner Simon praised her “careful legal analysis” and “measured judgment,” and thanked her for helping him make the transition to being a Commissioner.

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