On March 8, 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission held its most recent regularly-scheduled agenda meeting. No telecommunications matters were addressed on the regular agenda, and only a few telecommunications matters were on the consent agenda. At the meeting, the Commission voted to oppose AB 1050, a bill to establish a different method for retail sellers of prepaid mobile telephony communications services to collect local and state communications taxes, fees and surcharges from customers. The Commissioners congratulated Commissioner Ferron, who was confirmed this past week by the Senate Rules Committee. These and other items of interest on the Commission’s agenda are addressed below.
REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS
- CPUC to Oppose AB 1050, a Bill Addressing Collection of Public Policy Fund Surcharges by Prepaid Mobile Telephony Service Providers
(Item 45, adopted on consent agenda) – AB 1050 (Ma) would establish a new method for retail sellers of prepaid mobile telephony communications services to collect local and state communications taxes, fees and surcharges from customers. Based on the Office of Governmental Affairs’ recommendation, the Commission will oppose the bill as presently drafted on the grounds that: (1) the bill implies that no current method exists for collecting taxes, fees, and surcharges from prepaid end-user consumers; (2) the bill would needlessly duplicate CPUC oversight by adding similar responsibilities for the Board of Equalization; (3) the bill would make the customer liable for the surcharges; (4) the bill implies that prepaid wireless users do not benefit from universal service programs; and (5) the bill would complicate the CPUC’s ability to manage and adjust surcharge amounts. The OGA Memorandum associated with this item is available here.
- BullsEye Telecom, Inc Granted Authority to Withdraw CPCN Applications, With Conditions
(Item 14, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision grants BullsEye Telecom, Inc.’s motion to withdraw its application for a CPCN in the service areas of Frontier Communications of California and dismisses the proceeding under the condition that Applicant and certain of its officers, directors, and owners reference this Decision in any subsequent application they make to the Commission for authorization to provide telecommunications services in California. CPSD had protested BullsEye’s application on the grounds that the company failed to disclose prior bankruptcies connected to one of BullsEye’s current officers, and that BullsEye had allegedly misrepresented the extent to which it had been sanctioned or investigated by state and federal regulatory bodies. The Commission declined to impose a Rule 1.1 violation in connection with the CPSD allegations, but admonished BullsEye to be more straightforward and comprehensive in its disclosures in the future, should it wish to reapply for a CPCN. A copy of the Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
- Statutory Deadline Extended in City of Davis v. Newpath Networks, LLC
(Item 29, adopted on consent agenda) – This Proposed Decision extends the statutory deadline for resolving the City of Davis’s complaint against Crown Castle (formerly Newpath Networks, LLC) related to the proposed construction of a distributed antenna system in the City. Davis claims that certain aspects of the project violate provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and Crown Castle’s certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN). Crown Castle countered that the City’s actions related to the project violated state and federal law. The Proposed Decision extends the statutory deadline to March 23, 2013 to permit the Davis City Council to approve an apparent settlement reached by the parties. The Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
- Complainant Granted Reparations for Telephone Bill Overcharge
(Item 21, adopted on consent agenda) – By this item , the Commission grants reparations to a Sprint/Nextel customer based on overcharges that had been imposed by the company. This Decision orders a refund of $340 in overcharges that appeared on the customer’s cellular phone service, and imposes a finding that her current plan must remains at the rate she alleged in her complaint. A copy of the Proposed Decision is available here.
SIGNIFICANT HELD ITEMS
- Proposed Decision Establishing Rates for Cross-Connections Via AT&T’s Main Distribution Frame Between XO Communications Services, Inc. and AT&T California
(Item 42, held by Staff to unspecified date) – This Proposed Decision would resolve a complaint case between AT&T and XO over charges for cross-connections in the parties’ Interconnection Agreement (ICA). AT&T California interprets its interconnection agreement (ICA) and federal law as permitting it to charge rates established in its federal special access tariff, whereas XO interprets the law to require AT&T California to provide cross-connection at TELRIC rates. This Proposed Decision would modify previous decisions addressing the dispute by confirming that the ICA between XO and AT&T provides XO with the right to cross-connects between XO’s and other competitive local exchange carriers’ collocated equipment via AT&T’s main distribution frame (MDF), and that the applicable rate for the cross-connects via the MDF is the federal TELRIC rate. The Proposed Decision is available here.
- Proposed Decision Revising Definition of Basic Service
(Item 41, held to 4/19/12 by Commissioner Ferron for further review) – This Proposed Decision would adopt revisions to the definition of basic telephone service that would be applied to carriers seeking to receive support from the CHCF-B or the California LifeLine programs. The current basic telephone service definition was adopted in 1996. The Commission’s stated goals in reviewing the basic service definition are to: (a) consolidate and streamline existing listings of service elements, (b) apply technology-neutral terminology and definitions, and (c) avoid degrading standards necessary to meet essential universal service needs. The Proposed Decision being considered by the Commission is available here.
NOTES AND COMMISSIONER REPORTS
- Commissioner Simon noted the untimely passing of Peter Casciato, a longstanding CPUC practitioner representing cable companies and CLECs. Simon described Casciato’s as “best of breed” when it comes to representing parties before the Commission, and emphasized that he will be sorely missed within the Commission.
- Commissioner Sandoval noted that she and Senator Fuller attended a meeting with CALTEL on Wednesday, February 7, 2012, where they had a productive discussion about the services that the companies are providing to business and residential customers.
- Commissioner Ferron noted that his legal advisor Sarah Thomas has “returned to her roots,” and will be back in the Commission’s Legal Division. He did not announce a replacement, and encouraged applicants to submit their applications for the position.
- President Peevey applauded utilities for their accomplishments in furthering the goals of General Order 156, with over $7 billion of utility funding being spent on hiring minority and women-owned firms, equaling over 30% of the utilities’ total expenditures.