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On Thursday, October 16, 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission held its regularly-scheduled agenda meeting. The Commission reversed its prior decision calling for a split of the 760 area code and instead ordered an area code overlay. The Commission also opened a rulemaking to investigate cell phone use by operators of trains and rail transit vehicles. These and other telecommunications-related items addressed during the meeting are summarized below.


REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS

  • Overlay of 760 Area Code Adopted (Item 38, adopted 5-0) – This decision orders an overlay of the 760 area code, overturning the Commission’s previous order calling for an area code split. The 760 area code covers parts of eastern and southeastern California, including portions of the greater San Diego metropolitan area. On April 24, 2008, the CPUC issued Decision 08-04-058, which split the current 760 area code and created the 442 area code. In response to a petition for modification from legislators from the affected areas and the Chambers of Commerce of Carlsbad, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, and Vista, the Commission decided to revisit the matter. In light of public input received at two public participation hearings and in various letters outlining the economic impact of the proposed split, the Commission reversed its prior decision. With the implementation of this overlay, 10-digit dialing will be required within the 760 area code. The permissive dialing period will begin in May 2009, with mandatory dialing starting on October 24, 2009. Numbers from the new 442 area code will begin being issued on November 21, 2009. A public education plan will be filed within 30 days of the effective date of the decision.

    In moving the new decision, President Peevey noted that the argument for an overlay is usually stronger in a smaller area, where people are used to dialing 10-digit numbers because of the density of the population. The Commission had originally ordered a split based partly on the huge geographic expanse of the 760 area code, which is larger than most states and several European nations. Due to public outcry at the prior decision and concerns about the financial burden of changing area codes, the Commission determined to reconsider its decision. President Peevey cautioned that an overlay is not a “panacea,” but expressed his belief that, on balance and upon further consideration, this particular overlay was preferable to a split. Commissioner Chong echoed the difficulty of the decision, observing that “area code relief is one of the messiest issues” that the PUC deals with. In helping to make these decisions, Commissioner Simon noted that “facilitating public input” always leads to better policy. Simon also offered strong support for the concept of area code overlays generally. A draft of the decision is available at the following link: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/92263.doc.

  • Order Instituting Rulemaking Issued Regarding Ban of Personal Use of Cell Phones for Operators of Passenger and Freight Trains and Rail Transit Vehicles Approved (Item 39, adopted 5-0) – In response to several recent train accidents, including the fatal collision of a freight train and a commuter train on September 12, 2008, the Commission adopted Resolution SX-88 on September 18, 2008. The decision, which prohibited the personal use of cell phone services while operating passenger or freight trains and light rail transit vehicles, was adopted on an emergency, expedited basis. The Commission approved an Order Instituting Rulemaking (“OIR”) to open a proceeding to determine whether the temporary ban should be made permanent and whether the scope of the ban should be broadened.

    The OIR was adopted unanimously, and President Peevey gravely noted that rail transportation safety was “not the place for foot-dragging.” Based on recent accidents, he announced that the Commission must “make rail travel safer than it has been.” All of the Commissioners concurred. However, while admitting that “safety is our highest priority,” Commissioner Chong voiced her concern with the reach of the OIR, noting that the some of the questions in the scoping memo were overbroad and could lead to overly aggressive regulation by the PUC. A recent draft of the OIR is available at the following link: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/92158.doc.

  • Compensation Agreements Approved Between Frontier Entities and Pac-West Telecomm (Items 18 and 19, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission adopted two resolutions approving compensation agreements involving Frontier entities, one between Frontier Communications of Tuolumne and Pac-West Telecomm, and one between Frontier Communications of Golden State and Pac-West Telecomm. Both agreements will remain in effect until October 16, 2010. Drafts of the resolutions are available below:

  • United Way of Monterey County Certified as 211 Provider for Monterey County (Item 20, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission adopted a resolution approving the United Way of Monterey County’s request to use the 2-1-1 abbreviated dialing code to provide information and referral (I&R) services in Monterey County. The authority is granted for an indefinite term, subject to review. The final resolution is available at the following link: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/FINAL_RESOLUTION/92358.doc

  • Deadline Extended for Resolution of Matters Involving Potential Termination Fees Owed to Pac-West Telecomm (Items 27, 29, and 30, adopted on consent agenda) – The Commission adopted three resolutions approving a deadline extension for related cases involving claims brought by Pac-West against three carriers for unpaid termination fees. The Public Utilities Code requires all adjudicatory cases to be resolved within 12 months of initiation. Although these claims were brought in October and November of 2007, they have not yet been resolved (see Significant Held Items, below). The resolutions extend the deadline for resolving the proceedings to March 31, 2009.


SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS

  • Proposed Decision Designating ConnectTo as an ETC in Large and Mid-sized Carriers’ Territories (Item 3, held by Staff until 11/6) – This proposed decision would grant ConnectTo Communications, Inc.’s request to be designated as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (“ETC”) in the territories of AT&T, Verizon, SureWest, and Frontier for LifeLine purposes only. The decision had originally rejected the request, but the Communications Division staff reversed its opinion after receiving an Advice Letter from ConnectTo addressing the concerns. A recent draft of the proposed decision can be found at the following link: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/91555.doc.

  • Proposed Decisions Ordering Termination Fees from Various Carriers to Pac-West Telecomm (Items 22, 23, and 25, held by Chong until 11/6 for further review) – These three proposed decisions would order three different carriers to pay Pac-West unpaid call termination fees. The carriers and the amounts they would owe are: Blue Casa Communications, $309,348.65; Telscape Communications, $554,605.39; and Comcast, $379,446.43.


NOTES AND COMMISSIONER REPORTS

  • Status Report on AT&T Detariffing Letter and Residential Service Agreement -– Telecommunications Division Director Jack Leutza presented a short report on AT&T’s detariffing efforts, including a discussion of AT&T’s new Residential Services Agreement. This agreement has been the subject of significant public criticism, including by several speakers at Thursday’s Commission meeting. The Commission is still considering AT&T’s advice letter seeking detariffing, and Commissioner Peevey assured the audience that there would still be changes to AT&T’s initial proposal for its Residential Services Agreement. Director Leutza further noted that the Commission is aware of the public interest in and concern with this issue, and that it was taking the issue seriously. President Peevey promised to promote “English, not legalese” in the language of the agreement.

  • California Telehealth Network to Open Bidding for Carriers –- In a brief Commissioner report, Commissioner Chong noted that the California Telehealth Network would be issuing a Request for Proposals for carriers to provide broadband services to the group. This RFP will be posted on the FCC’s website within approximately 15 days, according to Chong. Further information is available at www.caltelehealth.org.

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