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 Regulatory Mix will be on hiatus July 2, 2015 – July 5, 2015 in observance of the public holiday for Independence Day.
FCC Commissioner Ajat Pai has released his plan to support broadband deployment in rural areas. The plan would allow rural companies to obtain high cost support for stand-alone broadband services. (Current FCC rules provide support only to networks that supply telephone service, not stand alone broadband service.) The plan includes an appendix showing the rule changes needed to redirect funding to support stand-alone broadband facilities. The changes would include stand-alone broadband costs when calculating high cost loop support and interstate common line support. They would also determine how much of that support should be attributed to stand-alone broadband and direct that support be used to offset the cost of service.
Commissioner Pai also proposes to allow rate-of-return carriers that want to participate in the Connect America Fund to do so before the end of this year by using the alternative cost model for rate-of-return areas (the A-CAM) already developed by the FCC staff. Under his proposal, support would target unserved locations that will meet the Connect America Fund’s 10/1 broadband benchmark and FCC Form 477 data would form the basis of a streamlined challenge process. Support would last 10 years. If a carrier’s support would decrease under the A-CAM, there would be a five-year transition and there would be no limit on participation for such carriers. Because he assumed that “numerous volunteers may swamp the rate-of-return budget” if a carrier’s support would increase under the A-CAM, he said he was “open to using some of the reserves that have built up within the rate-of-return budget over the past few years to fund additional volunteers. But we must be fiscally responsible and prioritize participation for those areas that have the lowest build out of high-speed broadband.”
The PUC announced that Sprint will take over as relay provider on July 1. Sprint will replace AT&T, which is exiting the rely industry. Both traditional relay and captioned telephone relay are administered by the PUC and funded by a monthly surcharge on telephone access lines.
The PUC released a new Consumer Complaint Procedures Guide, designed to educate consumers about the Commission’s complaint process. An additional quick reference sheet, “Know the PUC Complaint Process and Your Options,” also offers handy instructions about how to file a complaint with the PUC. They detail the differences between filing an informal versus a formal complaint; provide an explanation of the complaint filing process; and include information on how to find important forms online.
“These resources are intended to address common questions that are encountered when filing a complaint against a utility,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “For example, it is important for consumers to understand that they should first contact their utility if they are experiencing a problem, and that the PUC acts as an intermediary between the customer and utility. This is one of the most common areas of confusion that we see when consumers reach out to our Bureau of Consumer Services (BCS) to file a complaint.”
COMPTEL, NTCA, and ITTA Urge Congress to Update Video Policy
On June 22, COMPTEL, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association and ITTA-The Voice of Mid-Size Communications Companies sent a letter to Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) urging the committee to hold a hearing to examine video marketplace failures and the need for reforms of, or updates to, existing laws and regulations.
The letter recommended that legislators update the retransmission consent regime and other outdated regulations to ensure that all providers continue to have the opportunity to compete and offer high-quality broadband and video services to their subscribers.
In a statement, COMPTEL CEO Chip Pickering said, “Video content is fast becoming a building block that fosters investment in new networks. If our goal as a nation is to deploy more broadband networks and stimulate more competition and more choices for every American, then we must make video reform a priority.”