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On October 19, the Commission held its regularly-scheduled agenda meeting in Fresno, at the Fresno City Council Chambers. The meeting was very short, with only one telecommunications-related item on the regular agenda. The Commission granted approval for the CPUC staff to file comments on the Missoula Plan, and resolved a pair of consumer protection related claims against Qwest and Cingular, respectively. The Commission also discussed the successes of its “bill clinic,” held in Fresno last night.

Further information about these and other items of interest on today’s agenda is provided below:


REGULAR AND CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS

  • Commission Provides Further Authorization for Opening Comments on Missoula Plan in FCC Intercarrier Compensation Proceeding (Item 46, adopted 5-0) — As a follow-up to the discussion during the last Commission meeting, this item commanded the full support of the Commissioners for comments on the Missoula Plan proposal in the FCC’s intercarrier compensation docket. During the last meeting, the Commissioners expressed general support for the staff-proposed approach to the Missoula Plan, but asked that further details be provided to the Commission offices regarding the specific proposed comments. General Counsel Wu introduced this item, noting that more specific draft comments were provided to the various Commission offices on Monday, and that there were no objections received by any of those offices.

    Commissioner Chong offered her perspectives on the proposed comments, emphasizing the importance of weighing in on this important issue. Although she acknowledged that the Missoula Plan is the only comprehensive plan currently on the table, she also described it as “controversial,” and stated that she didn’t believe the “plan [would] go through as is.” Chong raised particular concerns about the proposed increases in the Subscriber Line Charge that would occur under the plan, observing that “Californians will pay more if the Missoula Plan is adopted.” Chong did recognize some positive aspects of the plan, including the solutions for dealing with “phantom traffic.” In general, Chong expressed that she would like to see intercarrier compensation “moved closer to actual economic costs.”

    Following Chong’s comments, the Commission voted unanimously in favor of offering comments.

  • Qwest and CPSD Reach Settlement Regarding Alleged Consumer Protection Violations (Item 3, adopted on consent agenda) — This decision approves a settlement between the Commission’s CPSD and Qwest, thereby resolving an Order Instituting Investigation into Qwest’s alleged failure to observe environmental requirements that the Commission imposed on Qwest in connection with the company’s construction of internet backbone facilities in California. In I.00-03-001, the Commission was investigating allegations that Qwest failed to properly inquire whether any cultural resources would be threatened by proposed construction projects, as it had been directed to do in a prior Commission decision. According to the OII, Qwest had been engaged in construction projects in Los Angeles, Santa Clara, and San Luis Obispo counties, some of which may have threatened a Native American “cultural resource area.” In exchange for a release of the claims under examination in the OII, Qwest has agreed to: (1) pay $150,000 to the state’s general fund; (2) pay $30,000 to a group of Qwest’s choosing that promotes awareness of Native American history and archaeology; (3) continue abiding by cultural resource protocols that it had signed on February 16, 2006; (4) offer a refresher course to its construction employees regarding the cultural resource protocols; and (5) offer training on the protocols to any construction contractor that Qwest employs in California. The settlement was adopted unanimously on the Commission’s consent agenda.

  • UCAN and Cingular Wireless Reach Settlement Resolving Consumer Protection Dispute (Item 5, adopted on consent agenda) — This decision approves a settlement between UCAN and Cingular with respect to allegations that Cingular had generated unauthorized charges for wireless content on customers’ bills. UCAN had alleged that Cingular was violating California law, including Public Utilities Code Section 2890. Cingular had countered with preemption arguments, and general denials of wrongdoing. In exchange for a release of the claims raised by UCAN, Cingular must do the following: (1) send a free subscription confirmation message for all wireless content service orders, as well as periodic reminder messages of the subscription, and include information on how to cancel the subscription; (2) implement a per line dollar limit cap for purchases of wireless content services; (3) create a blocking option to prevent ordering any wireless content service; and (4) institute free and ready means to address billing issues and cancel wireless content services. This settlement was adopted unanimously on the Commission’s consent agenda.

  • TURN Awarded Intervenor Compensation for Contributions to Verizon UNE Decision (Item 29, adopted on consent agenda) — This decision awarded TURN $510,479 in intervenor compensation for its substantial contributions to the decision adopting final Verizon UNE rates, D.06-03-025. This award represents 100% of what TURN had requested. Although the decision acknowledges that “TURN worked in conjunction with other parties,” this was not considered duplicative, since “TURN’s participation materially supplemented, complemented or contributed to the efforts of the other parties . . . .”


SIGNIFICANT HELD AND WITHDRAWN ITEMS

  • Decision Addressing Petitions for Modification of Decision Resolving Triennial Review Order Proceeding (Item 43, Held by Staff until 11/9 for further review) – This item would resolve Petitions for Modification filed by Verizon and SBC with respect to the decision concluding the Triennial Review Order, 9-month phase. In particular, the large ILECs seek to reverse the requirement that batch hot cut process and pricing disputes be submitted to arbitration. The draft decision in this case would defer these issues to a pair of pre-hearing conferences in the consolidated arbitration proceedings for Verizon and SBC.

  • Decision Amending Intervenor Compensation Program to Eliminate Intervenor Compensation Fund (Item 44, Held by Grueneich until 11/9 for further consideration) — This decision would modify the operation of the intervenor compensation program in several respects. Specifically, the decision would: (1) codify Commission precedent regarding eligibility and compensable costs, (2) provide intervenors with greater flexibility in filing notices of intent to claim intervenor compensation; (3) enact new accounting and documentation requirements to facilitate Commission review and determination of eligibility and compensable costs; and (4) adopt a mechanism for providing notices of intent to claim compensation for judicial review costs. However, the most significant change embodied in the decision would be the elimination of the intervenor compensation fund, which is currently utilized to recover intervenor compensation costs in quasi-legislative proceedings. Rather than spreading these costs to all end users as part of the CPUC reimbursement fund, the costs would be recovered directly from the utilities in the affected industry segment. However, recovery could only be obtained from energy and telecommunications utilities with more than $50 million in annual revenue, and water utilities with more than $10 million in annual revenue.

  • CPUC Comments on ETC “Reverse Auction” Proposal (Item 45, Withdrawn) – This item would have directed the Commission staff to provide comments on the Federal-State Joint Board proposal to adopt a system of “reverse auctions” for selecting ETCs. It appears that the Commission will not be filing comments on this proposal.


NOTES AND COMMISSIONER REPORTS

  • Commission Praises Successful Bill Clinic, Held Last Night in Fresno – Consumer Services and Information Division Director Linda Serizawa reported on a “bill clinic,” which was held on October 18, 2006 in Fresno. This clinic was held as part of the consumer protection initiative, which identified a need for the Commission to work closely with community-based organizations. More specifically, “bill clinics” were among the “immediate recommendations” in the recently-issued report on issues faced by Limited English Proficiency individuals. Last night’s clinic was attended by carriers, community-based organizations, and Commission staff. Cingular, AT&T, Cricket, and Sprint/Nextel were among the carriers present. During the clinic, more than 40 consumers received help with their bills, gathered information about products and services that may better suit their needs, and/or signed up for low-income assistance programs. The Commission described this bill clinic as a great success, and announced that further bill clinics will be held in the future at other locations throughout the state.

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