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On Thursday, May 21, 2009, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly scheduled agenda meeting. The auditorium was full, at least for the public comment portion of the meeting, during which twenty-seven speakers addressed the Commission on the Proposed Decision to modify the LifeLine program. Aside from the extensive public comment on the LifeLine matter, it was a light day on the telecommunications front, as several items of significance were held to future meetings. The significant items of interest are discussed in further detail below.


REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS

  • Decision Granting Motion to Dismiss Complaint Against Time Warner Cable (Item 19, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission granted a motion to dismiss a complaint against Time Warner Cable Information Services, LLC (“Time Warner”), for lack of jurisdiction, finding that the Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”) service complained of by the complainant was provided by an affiliate of Time Warner’s, TWC Digital Phone, LLC (“TWC Digital”), and video service was provided by a separate affiliate, Time Warner Cable, LLC (“TWC”). The complainant alleged that Time Warner failed to disconnect his cable service at his previous address, but continued to bill him for that service, and that his phone service was disconnected for nonpayment of bills that had actually been paid. Complainant sought compensation for the cost of a prepaid phone that he had to purchase, and well as restoration of his phone service. A recent draft of this decision is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/100487.doc

  • Decision Approving Settlement and Issuing Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Item 18, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission approved a settlement between the Consumer Protection and Safety Division (“CPSD”) and 88 Telecom Corporation requiring 88 Telecom to pay a fine of $8,000 for operating in the state for five years without a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (“CPCN”). The Commission also issued 88 Telecom the required CPCN to operate as a switchless reseller of inter- and intra- local access and transport area telecommunications services offered by communication common carriers. A recent draft of this decision is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/100313.doc.

  • Decision Awarding Intervenor Compensation to Utility Consumers’ Action Network (Item 27, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission awarded Utility Consumers’ Action Network (“UCAN”) $252,417.44 in compensation for its “substantial contributions” to decisions related to two separate cases that UCAN filed against Pacific Bell Telephone Company (“AT&T”) and Cox California Telecom II, LLC (“Cox”) for alleged violations of Public Utilities Code section 2883. In D. 08-08-017, the Commission found that AT&T had violated the 911 warmline requirements under Section 2883(a) by terminating 911 access to currently or previously occupied residential units where billed service had been voluntarily or involuntarily terminated, and also found that AT&T failed to provide access to 911 emergency services in new residential units. The complaint against Cox alleging violations of section 2883 was ultimately dismissed, although D. 07-07-020 imposed a penalty of $40,000 on both AT&T and Cox for alleged ex parte communications by AT&T and Cox representatives with certain Commissioners’ personal advisors. AT&T is ordered to pay $248,832.94 of the award, and Cox is ordered to pay $3,584.50 of the award. A recent draft of this decision is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/100764.doc.

  • Assembly Bill Related to Appointment of Commission President (Item 42, moved from regular to consent agenda) – The Commission voted to oppose AB 1315, a bill that, among other things, would make the Governor’s appointment of the Commission’s President subject to Senate confirmation, as well as remove the President’s administrative authority over the CPUC General Counsel and Executive Director in favor of transferring such authority to the Commission as a whole. The bill also would require the Commission to hold its regular business meetings in Sacramento once a month. A recent copy of the Commission memorandum explaining its decision, as well as a copy of the bill, is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/REPORT/101090.doc.


SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS

  • Decision Making Fundamental Changes to LifeLine (Item 31, held by Peevey until 6/4/09) – The Commission once again held its Proposed Decision that would make fundamental changes to the LifeLine program, including de-linking California LifeLine from the AT&T basic rate structure, setting out a specific support discount at 55 percent of the highest basic rate of the state’s communications companies without regard to the telecommunication provider or technology of service selected, expanding the LifeLine program to include data services for consumers who receive wireless equipment through the Commission’s Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program, finding that wireless carriers may be reimbursed by LifeLine for providing discounted service to customers, modifying the income-based criteria to match the low-income energy program (CARE) income-based criteria on an interim basis, and modifying the recovery mechanism for administrative costs and bad debt under the LifeLine program. A recent draft of this Proposed Decision is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/WORD_PDF/AGENDA_DECISION/101278.DOC.

  • Decision Adopting Revisions to General Order 133-B (Item 32, held by Staff until 6/4/09) – The Commission held until its June 4, 2009 meeting a Proposed Decision that would revise General Order 133-B (“GO 133-B”), which governs service quality measures and standards applicable to telecommunications carriers, through the adoption of new General Order 133-C (“GO 133-C”). GO 133-C contains a set of service quality measures and related standards for Small LECs, including (1) telephone service installation intervals (5 business days); (2) installation commitments (95%); (3) customer trouble reports (6 per 100 lines); (4) out of service repair intervals (24 hours); and (5) answer time (80% within 60 seconds related to trouble reports and billing and non-billing issues). Uniform Regulatory Framework (“URF”) ILECs and competitive local exchange carriers (“CLECs”) with 5,000 or more customers will be required to adhere to the minimum reporting standards related to customer trouble reports, out of service repair intervals, and billing and trouble report answer time. CLECs with fewer than 5,000 customers are exempt from reporting requirements unless the provider is a carrier of last report (“COLR”). GO 133-C requires that all measures, except those related to answer time, be reported quarterly, and that answer time be reported annually. The Proposed Decision would give the Commission the option of publishing the carriers’ performance on its website. Additionally, reporting of the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Merger Compliance Oversight Team (“MCOT”) data is discontinued; however, carriers who file FCC Automated Reporting Management Information System (“ARMIS”) service quality and customer satisfaction data are required to file California-specific ARMIS data with the Commission. Under the Proposed Decision, wireless carriers are required to provide coverage maps on their websites and at retail locations. The Proposed Decision would defer a decision on whether to require an independent Commission customer satisfaction survey pending the outcome of a federal determination of what customer satisfaction data should be obtained for all service platforms. A recent draft of this Proposed Decision is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/EFILE/PD/100152.pdf.

  • Resolution Adopting Conditional Funding for Mother Lode Broadband Project (Item 33, withdrawn) – The Commission withdrew a Draft Resolution that would have adopted conditional funding from the California Advanced Services Fund totaling $2,771,341 for the Mother Lode Broadband Project of Rapid Link, Inc. and Mother Lode Internet pending Commission approval of Rapid Link’s application to acquire Telenational Communications Inc. The Mother Lode project would provide service in currently “unserved areas” of Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties. A recent draft of this Proposed Decision is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/COMMENT_RESOLUTION/99441.doc.  

  • In the Matter of High-Cost Universal Support Service (Item 35, withdrawn) – The Commission withdrew its recommendation to consider participating in a Federal Communications Commission call to refresh the record pertaining to issues raised by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in the Qwest II decision. In that decision, the court invalidated the FCC’s high-cost universal service support mechanism for non-rural carriers, which determines the amount of support to be provided to each state by comparing the statewide average forward-looking cost per line for non-rural carriers to a nationwide cost benchmark.

  • Assembly Bill Related to Disposition of Utility Property (Item 38, held by Bohn until 6/4/08) – The Commission voted to support Assembly Bill 698, which would expedite the Commission’s approval process for the sale, lease and other encumbrance or disposition of utility property for transactions valued under $5,000,000, thereby significantly reducing the time for approval of certain transactions without undermining the Commission’s California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) obligations or adversely impacting public utility rates. A recent copy of the Commission’s memorandum explaining its vote, as well as a copy of the bill, is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/REPORT/101072.doc.


COMMISSIONER REPORTS

  • Commissioner Simon reported that the attended the Annual Joint Meeting of the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program, the California Telephone Access Program and the California Relay Service on May 19, 2009.

  • Commissioner Chong reported that she traveled to Redding recently to meet with the director of the California Emerging Technologies Fund to discuss the programs future and past successes. Commissioner Chong noted that 1,000 more households in rural parts of California have broadband compared to last year.


MANAGEMENT REPORTS

  • Chief ALJ Clopton presented her “Soup to Nuts Process Review” that she was assigned by Commissioner Peevey and Executive Director Clannon when she first joined the Commission in January 2009. Through meetings with focus groups including various interested parties in Commission proceedings, ALJ Clopton determined that three areas are in need of improvement to make the Commission more transparent and accessible: (1) Commission agendas should be reformatted so they are concise and easy to read; (2) compendiums should be created on the Commission’s website to make it easier to follow the history and outcome of various decisions, resolutions, rulemakings and policy proceedings; and (3) three small working groups should be created to track the Commission’s progress on public access and participation, ex parte and proceeding categorization rules, and practice and procedure modifications. Agendas are expected to be revised by the end of this year; various compendiums related to energy matters will be added to the website on a rolling basis, with the last unveiled by the end of 2010; and the working groups will be in place by November of 2009. ALJ Clopton’s powerpoint presentation on the subject can be accessed at the following link: ftp://ftp.cpuc.ca.gov/Soup_to_nuts.PPT.

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