On May 24, 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly-scheduled agenda meeting. The Commission held the CHCF-A surcharge resolution until the June 7, 2012 agenda. Once again, the Commission had a detailed discussion of SB 1611, the bill prohibiting the CPUC from regulating VoIP. These and other items of interest on the Commission’s agenda are addressed below.
REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS
- Transfer of Control From Cox California Telecom, LLC to Cox Communications California, LLC Approved
(Item 2, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision grants the joint application of Cox California Telcom, LLC and Cox Communications California, LLC for transfer of control of Cox California Telcom LLC from CoxCom, LLC to Cox Communications California, LLC as a result of an internal corporate reorganization. Following the transfer of control, Cox California Telcom, LLC will provide the cable television and high speed internet services in California that Cox Com, LLC currently provides. The Greenlining Institute had filed a protest, alleging that the application seeking approval of the transaction did not include sufficient information to assure the Commission that G.O. 156 (WMDVBE) requirements will continue to be met. The Commission rejected the protest on the grounds that G.O. 156 requirements do not apply to the entities involved in the transaction, and the regulated subsidiaries will remain subject to the same requirements. A copy of the Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
- Licenses Reinstated for Consumer Telecom, Inc., Momentum Telecom, Inc., Vaya Telecom, Inc. and Central Telecom Long Distance, Inc.
(Item 16, adopted on consent agenda) – This Resolution reinstates operating authorities held by Consumer Telecom, Inc., Momentum Telecom, Inc., Vaya Telecom, Inc. and Central Telecom Long Distance, Inc. After a previous draft resolution was issued revoking several carriers’ operating authority last month, these carriers corrected deficiencies in User Fee and Surcharge reporting and payment, and posted required performance bonds, but the Communications Division was unable to process and resolve the carriers’ compliance until after the Resolution revoking their authority was adopted. By this Resolution, the companies’ operating authorities have been reinstated. A copy of the Draft Resolution associated with this item is available here.
- Securetel Network Inc. d/b/a STN Granted Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity
(Item 25, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision grants STN a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) to provide resold interexchange service as a switchless reseller in California. A copy of the Proposed Decision associated with this item is available here.
- Dismissal of AT&T California’s Case against Fones4All Corporation Dismissed
(Item 24, adopted on consent agenda) – This Decision dismisses Pacific Bell Telephone Company d/b/a AT&T California’s complaint against Fones4All Corporation. The case involves AT&T’s attempt to recover alleged overcharges AT&T paid to Fones4All. AT&T was awarded $2.6 million, but Fones4All failed to pay, and AT&T attempted to arrange a hearing to pierce the corporate veil and recover the debt from Fones4All’s officer, who AT&T alleged has “siphoned off” the company’s assets. Fones4All subsequently filed for bankruptcy, and AT&T now asserts that it would be more efficient to dismiss the veil-piercing issue in this case and proceed in the bankruptcy court. A copy of the Proposed Decision is available here.
SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS
- Increase in California High Cost Fund-A Surcharge Rate
(Item 12, held to June 7, 2012 by Commissioner Simon for further review) – This Draft Resolution would have approved the Communications Division’s (CD) request to increase the California High Cost Fund-A surcharge rate from 0.00% to 0.40% to fund expenditures for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-2012 and FY 2012-13 budgets. The surcharge had been set at 0.00% in light of the amounts that CHCF-A recipients had paid to the CHCF-A in connection with now-annulled decisions in the Rural Telephone Bank matter. Following a successful appeal, the companies now have the right to receive their prior payments back from the CHCF-A. To accommodate the return of this money and also provide for ongoing revenue needs under the program, the surcharge must be raised. Further adjustments to the surcharge amount may be necessary in light of the hold on this item to ensure that all of the anticipated RTB and scheduled CHCF-A payments can be made. A copy of the Draft Resolution is available here.
- Senate Bill 1161 (Padilla) Prohibiting The CPUC from Regulating VoIP
(Item 54, discussed and held to June 7, 2012 for further review) – The meeting began with some spirited comment from The Utility Reform Network’s Executive Director in opposition to the Commission’s possible support of Senate Bill 1611 – which would prohibit the Commission from regulating Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Internet Protocol enabled service (IP enabled service) providers unless expressly provided otherwise in statute. The bill would prohibit any department, agency, commission, or political subdivision of the state from enacting, adopting, or enforcing any law, rule, regulation, ordinance, standard, order, or other provision having the force or effect of law, that regulates or has the effect of regulating VoIP or other IP enabled service, unless expressly authorized by statute. The bill would specify certain areas of law that are expressly applicable to VoIP and IP enabled service providers. A copy of the existing bill text is available here.
The Commissioners did not vote on the item. Based on the discussion, it appears that Commissioners Simon and Peevey fundamentally support the bill, Sandoval and Florio oppose the bill, and Ferron may be open to certain amendments that would cause him to consider an “oppose unless amended” or “support with amendments” position.
- Proposed Decision to Revise Definition of Basic Service
(Item 38, held to June 21, 2012 by Commissioner Sandoval 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 California High Cost Fund-B and/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
- The Commissioner Reports section of the meeting began with an acknowledgement that Assistant Chief Administrative Law Judge Jacqueline A. Reed had retired on May 4.
- Commissioner Sandoval reported that Bill Johnston of the Communications Division has taken over has her interim telecommunications advisor, in the place of Melissa Slawson, who has left the Commission for private practice.