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.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved HR 2583, the FCC Process Reform Act, with amendments incorporating other bills that have been introduced. See the Regulatory Mix dated 5/22/15, 5/20/15, and 4/22/15. Among other things, the bill would require the FCC to set deadlines for issuing different types of documents and establish minimum comment periods; seek comment on whether and how it should adopt procedural changes to how items are considered by the Commissioners; develop performance measures and file annual reports with Congress; publish documents in the Federal Register no later than 45 days after adoption; create a consumer complaints database; make other information about its operations accessible online. Amendments adopted by the Committee include a requirement that the FCC publish draft orders on its website; post rule changes within 24 hours of adoption; provide 48 hours notice to the Commissioners before any staff level decision is taken on delegated authority.
At a recent CWA (Local 1122) rally the attendees signed a petition to the PSC asking them to conduct a formal investigation of telecommunications policy in New York. The petition said that the “City of Buffalo and some neighboring communities do not have access to the quality, high-speed internet access required for business and residential needs. Telecommunications monopolies are carving up Western New York by investing in wealthy areas like Orchard Park while leaving the City of Buffalo behind.” The petitioners asked that the PSC conduct a formal investigation of telecommunications (including regulation of broadband internet service) in New York State since the policies of deregulation were implemented. In May 2015 the Public Utility Law Project of New York, Inc. (PULP) also voiced their concern over the “long overdue study on the state of telecommunications in New York.” PULP said that it is “inconceivable that the Commission has issued no broad-based public study upon which to base the sweeping remedial actions necessary to reverse the crumbling of New York’s telephony services sector.”
The PSC approved ETC designation (for purposes of High-Cost universal service support) for Midwest Energy Cooperative. The designation permits access to universal service fund (USF) support and allows Midwest to participate in rural broadband funding opportunities and provide service to high-cost areas. Midwest currently offers facilities-based and resold local exchange VoIP services in conjunction with its partner Big River Telephone and use of its own facilities. In March, Midwest was awarded a $211,532 grant through the FCC’s Rural Broadband Experiment program to provide broadband Internet service to 31 census blocks within its service area. (Midwest will not be seeking reimbursement for Lifeline or Link-up at this time.)
The PSC approved ETC designation for Skybeam, LLC, (in 388 census blocks) for the purpose of receiving (1) federal universal service support to participate in the FCC Rural Broadband Experiment Program and the Lifeline program; and (2) state universal service support to participate in the Nebraska Telephone Assistance Program. Skybeam offers VoIP and broadband service to residential and commercial locations on a facilities-based basis. Skybeam said it intends to extend broadband and digital voice services in Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois.
The Office of the Consumer Advocate has issued a proposed plan to reduce the energy burden for low-income utility customers throughout New York. The proposed plan will complement Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, a comprehensive strategy to build a clean, resilient, and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers. All utilities currently offer low-income discounts. Each utility, however, has its own low-income program, and these programs are not necessarily based on a single policy objective. The report issued for public comment recommends a new statewide approach to utility low-income programs that addresses each of the basic elements of program design and implementation, including defining eligibility, enrollment processes, benefit structures and discount levels provided, as well as program budgeting and cost recovery.
In addition the PSC Staff submitted their report addressing energy affordability for low income utility customers. The PSC directed Staff to examine programs for addressing energy affordability for low income utility customers, to evaluate the effectiveness of current low income program designs, and to identify any improvements that are warranted. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the Low Income Report by August 3, 2015. Click here for details on the Consumer Advocate’s plan and the Staff’s report. See the Regulatory Mix dated 5/27/14. TMI Regulatory Bulletin Service subscribers see Bulletin dated 7/31/14.