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.
Comcast-Time Warner Cable-Charter
The FCC granted the request of Comcast Corporation, Time Warner Cable Inc., Charter Communications, Inc., and Midwest Cable, Inc. (“SpinCo”) to: (1) withdraw the various applications they filed for consent to assign or transfer control of licenses and authorization in connection with their planned transactions; and (2) terminate the proceedings. On April 24, 2015, the applicants informed the FCC that they terminated the planned transactions. The FCC reminded all participants to the proceeding of their obligations under the protective orders, including their obligations to destroy or return to the Submitting Party all Stamped Confidential Documents and Stamped Highly Confidential Documents within two weeks of the date of its Order terminating the proceeding and to certify compliance not more than three weeks after the date of the Order.
Lifeline Program Fines
The FCC announced that AT&T and its former subsidiary Southern New England Telephone (SNET) agreed to pay $10.9 million in penalties for overbilling the FCC’s Lifeline program. Specifically, SNET will pay a civil penalty of $4 million and AT&T and eight of its affiliates will pay a civil penalty of $6.9 million. The affected AT&T affiliates are: BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC; The Ohio Bell Telephone Company; Southwestern Bell Telephone Company; Nevada Bell Telephone Company; Illinois Bell Telephone Company; Indiana Bell Telephone Company, Incorporated; Michigan Bell Telephone Company; and Wisconsin Bell, Inc. The $10.9 million in penalties resulting from these settlements are in addition to the refund payments that the companies have previously made to fully reimburse the Lifeline program for ineligible customers.
The Consent Decrees were entered into after a USAC audit and subsequent AT&T investigation indicated that that a number of Lifeline subscribers had not been timely de-enrolled following the annual Lifeline Program recertification process for 2012 and 2013. As a result, subscribers were inadvertently given one extra month of Lifeline support, and the AT&T Lifeline Affiliates inappropriately claimed reimbursement for this extra month. In the course of investigating this issue, AT&T discovered other de-enrollment and record keeping issues which were then disclosed to the FCC and USAC.
As part of the settlements, AT&T and SNET are required to adopt compliance plans related to their Lifeline activities, including designating a senior corporate manager to serve as a compliance officer, developing a comprehensive Lifeline service compliance plan (which, for AT&T, includes monthly and annual examination of a statistically significant sample of eligibility records), implementing an employee training program, and filing periodic reports with the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau.