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On Thursday, March 26, 2009, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly scheduled agenda meeting.  The meeting was well-attended, but abbreviated given the lack of any telecommunications, energy or water matters on the regular agenda.  There was one small transportation item on the regular agenda involving a decision to fine Air Ride Moving & Storage, Inc., $1,750 for violations of the Public Utilities Code and its Maximum Rate Tariff.  The Commission held its decision on AT&T’s application for rehearing of the Commission’s decision penalizing AT&T for violations of the 911 warmline statute.  The Commission also held the item on its agenda that would have endorsed comments from the CPUC on broadband stimulus funding issues being addressed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”).  The telecommunications items of significance that were addressed during the meeting are described in further detail below.


REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS

  • Deadline Extended for Resolving Rulemaking to Conduct Comprehensive Review of Telecommunications Public Policy Programs (Item 13, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission extended the statutory deadline for resolving the public policy fund rulemaking.  Under the Public Utilities Code, the Commission should try to resolve issues in a quasi-legislative proceeding such as this one within 18 months of the issuance of the scoping memo. Although some of the issues in this proceeding have been resolved, the Commission has not yet resolved proposals to restructure and expand the LifeLine program. Those issues, including a proposal to expand the LifeLine program to wireless services, are the subject of a pending Proposed Decision of Commissioner Chong. This item gives the Commission until May 26, 2009 to address that proposed decision. A recent draft of the decision expanding this deadline is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/98205.doc

  • Appeals to Recategorize Malibu Canyon Fire Investigation Denied (Item 22, adopted on consent agenda) – This decision denies the requests of Pacific Bell Telephone Company dba AT&T California and AT&T Mobility LLC (“AT&T”) and Southern California Edison Company (“SCE”) to re-categorize the Commission’s investigation of the October 2007 Malibu Canyon Fire investigation from “adjudicatory” to “ratesetting.”  AT&T had argued that even though the investigation focuses on the facts surrounding the 2007 Malibu fires, many of the areas that the Commission seeks to investigate call into question AT&T’s policies and practices for compliance with General Order 95 and other Commission regulations that relate to safe practices concerning overhead utility poles and related facilities.  Similarly, SCE argued that the Commission should reclassify the investigation as quasi-legislative and consolidate it with the related Infrastructure Safety Rulemaking (R.08-11-005). In that proceeding, the Commission is considering changes to Commission General Order 95 to address the Commission’s concern that communications facilities and transmission lines may present a fire danger. The Commission rejected both AT&T and SCE’s proposals, finding that the Malibu Canyon fire proceeding’s purpose is to determine whether any of the named utilities, which include AT&T, SCE, Cellco Partnership LLP dba Verizon Wireless, Sprint Communications Company LP, and NextG Networks of California, Inc., violated any statutory law or Commission order, rule or requirement with respect to facilities that may have caused the Malibu Canyon Fire in October of 2007. Accordingly, the Commission will treat this as an adjudicatory matter.  A recent draft of this decision is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/98484.doc


SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS

  • AT&T Application for Rehearing of Warmline Decision (Item 49, held until 4/16) – This proposed decision would reject AT&T’s application for rehearing of the prior Commission decision finding that AT&T was out of compliance with the warmline requirements in Public Utilities Code Section 2883. AT&T’s application challenges the decision on substantive and procedural grounds. The statutory period for consideration of AT&T’s application has already expired, thereby giving AT&T the right to file a writ petition on the issue. Nevertheless, AT&T has not yet done so.

  • Commission Endorsement of Comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce Regarding Rapid Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure (Item 45, held until 4/16/09) – The Commission withdrew an item related to the availability of federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”) funds for broadband initiative projects.  A workshop related to these funds was held on Monday, March 23, 2009 to seek input from interested parties, including telephone companies, internet service providers, and other potential fund recipients.  As Commissioner Chong noted during the meeting, California’s Chief Information Office Teri Takai has been asked by Governor Schwarzenegger to assist in gathering and prioritizing applications for ARRA grants to bring access to unserved and underserved areas, and the Commission has been asked to assist in this effort.  Commissioner Chong urged telecommunications companies to apply for broadband stimulus funds.  Funds are available through both the federal National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) and the Rural Utilities Service (“RUS”).  The first application filing window will open sometime between April and June of 2009, with two additional filing windows scheduled for later this year and early next year.  Commissioner Chong said that the PUC, the California Emerging Technologies Fund, and the Chief Information Officer’s office will work together on scoring applications.  The Commission will also be supplying comments to the NTIA to address methods for coordination between federal and state agencies regarding the distribution of broadband-related stimulus funding.

  • Decisions Granting Intervenor Compensation for Contributions to LifeLine Certification Rulemaking (Items 29 & 30, held until 4/16/09) – The Commission held two decisions that would have granted intervenor compensation funds to the National Consumer Law Center and The Utility Reform Network in connection their participation in the LifeLine certification rulemaking. These awards compensate these consumer groups for their contributions to the decision announcing the shift to prequalification. Recent drafts of the proposed decisions are available at the following links: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/98364.doc and http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/98346.doc


NOTES AND COMMISSIONER REPORTS

  • Fair Employment and Housing Act 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Commission — Commissioner Simon announced that there will be events held at the PUC commemorating the 50th anniversary of the passage of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, including appearances by farm labor organizer Dolores Huerta, Commissioner Chong, and Commissioner Peevey

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