The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court, issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Regulatory Bulletin.
In a recent press release, the DPU announced that it had issued two groundbreaking orders requiring Massachusetts electric distribution companies to modernize the electric grid. With these orders, Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to require electric distribution companies to take affirmative and far-reaching steps to modernize the electric grid. The DPU’s grid modernization order requires each utility to develop and implement a 10-year grid modernization plan, to be updated regularly. (TMI Bulletin Service subscribers watch for our detailed Bulletin next week). The DPU also issued an order on time varying rates. Currently, most customers pay a flat rate. The time varying order requires utilities to set prices that take into account the varying costs of electricity and allow customers to make informed decisions on their electricity use throughout the day. TMI Regulatory Bulletin Service subscribers see Bulletin dated June 24, 2014. These orders establish “the platform and the incentives for utilities and other businesses to innovate and invest in new technology, to continue to upgrade our current infrastructure, and to increase the use of renewable energy, electric cars, energy storage, and microgrids,” said DPU Chair Ann Berwick. “At the same time, customers will be empowered to control their electricity use and save money.”
In remarks before the Free State Foundation FCC Commissioner Pai discussed net neutrality and the problems associated with regulating broadband as a Title II, common carrier service. He compared broadband deployment in the US (which currently has a “light-touch regulatory environment”) with deployment in Europe (which treats broadband as a public utility, imposes telephone-style regulation, and purports to focus on promoting service-based, rather than facilities-based, competition). Given the greater percentage of Americans with access to 25 Mbps broadband speeds and the fact that American broadband companies are investing more than twice as much as their European counterparts, he asked: “[s]o why would we ever want to abandon our regulatory model for Europe’s? We know what the results would be less infrastructure investment, slower broadband deployment, and less innovation.” Saying that he did not believe that opponents of Title II regulation have been “doing a good job getting our message out,” he urged his audience to take their case directly to the American people, as the Title II advocates have done. “Let’s engage the public and present a message that will connect with Americans who don’t work in telecom policy.”
Data on Internet Access and Local Competition
The FCC released its latest reports on Internet access service connections and local telephone services in the United States as of June 30, 2013. The reports are based on data submitted by service providers every six months on FCC Form 477.
According to the Reports:
- The number of connections with downstream speeds of at least 10 Mbps increased by 118% over June 2012, to 103 million connections, including 58 million fixed connections and 45 million mobile connections.
- Growth is particularly high in mobile Internet subscriptions. The number of mobile subscriptions with speeds over 200 kbps in at least one direction grew to 181 million – up 18% from June 2012.
- In voice services, there were 90 million end-user switched access lines in service, 45 million interconnected VoIP subscriptions, and 306 million mobile voice subscriptions, or 441 million retail local telephone service connections in total as of June 30, 2013.
- Over the three years between June 2010 and June 2013, interconnected VoIP subscriptions increased at a compound growth rate of 16%, mobile voice subscriptions increased at a compound annual growth rate of 3%, and retail switched access lines declined at 10% a year.
The PSC approved a proposal of AT&T and the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) to remedy overages in support that AT&T received from the state Universal Service Fund (USF). See the Regulatory Mix dated 5/7/14. AT&T: (1) will pay $312,207.44 to the State USF; (2) will not receive any of the remaining $419,166 of support that was awarded but not yet received; and (3) will not seek State USF support for grandfathered stand-alone basic residential lines for the December 2014 to November 2015 State USF Fund year. AT&T and ORS also discovered that AT&T had received an overage in Lifeline Support from the State USF. Therefore, AT&T will also pay $13,006 to the State USF and ORS will reduce the monthly Lifeline support payments to AT&T by $3,251.50 for the months of April through November 2014. The PSC concluded that the over collections were inadvertent, that AT&T has a mechanism to prevent further overages from occurring, and that its proposal will remedy all the overages collected from the State USF.