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 Briefing.
The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau initiated an investigation into the terms and conditions of the special access service pricing plans of AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, and Verizon. The FCC notes that CLECs have alleged that these terms and conditions are unreasonable, anticompetitive, and lock up the vast majority of the demand for TDM-based business data services but that the ILECs in question have disputed these claims. The Bureau said that due to the “substantial advocacy in the record on both sides of the issues, we believe that a more systematic inquiry into the tariff pricing plans in question is needed before any determination on the merits can be made. By initiating this investigation, the Bureau intends to gather sufficient information to enable the full Commission to decide whether and how to resolve these allegations.” Issues designated for investigation include whether the use of the following practices are just and reasonable practices under the Communications Act: (1) percentage commitments based on a purchaser’s historical or existing levels of purchases (2) shortfall fees; (3) upper percentage thresholds; (4) overage penalties; (5) certain long-term commitments; (6) early-termination fees; and (7) whether certain commercial agreements should be subject to the filing requirements of the Communications Act. TMI Briefing Service subscribers watch for a Briefing with more details.
Open Internet Ombudsperson
The FCC announced that Michael A. Janson was appointed to serve as the next Open Internet ombudsperson, the public’s primary point of contact within the agency for formal and informal questions and complaints related to the Open Internet rules. See our 2/27/15 Blog; FCC Adopts Net Neutrality Rules; See the Regulatory Mix dated 6/16/15. Mr. Janson will work within the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau and continue his current position in the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Among other things, he helped lead the bureau’s work related to the Open Internet Order. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Janson replaces the first ombudsperson, Parul P. Desai, who will return to her previous position as an attorney advisor within the FCC’s Audio Division in the Media Bureau, where she will lead outreach efforts.
The FCC announced the appointment of twelve members to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). Since the USAC Board will hold its next meeting October 27, 2015, the FCC decided it would be difficult to integrate new Board members prior to the upcoming meeting. As a result, the appointments are effective November 1, 2015. Separately, the FCC asked for nominations for the six additional USAC Board member positions. Those positions include representatives for: (1) ILECs (other than the Bell Operating Companies) with annual operating revenue in excess of $40 million; (2) information service providers; (3) IXCs with revenue more than $3 billion; (4) rural health care providers that are eligible to receive supported services; (5) schools that are eligible to receive discounts; and (6) state telecommunications regulators. Nominations are due by November 16, 2015.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a final rule to clarify and streamline certain aspects of its market-based rate program for wholesale sales of electric energy, capacity and ancillary services. The changes will increase transparency while continuing to ensure that the standards result in market-based rates that are just and reasonable. Among other things, the program eliminates a requirement that market-based rate sellers file quarterly land acquisition information for new generation sites. In addition, the final rule clarifies that sellers need not report behind-the-meter generation in the indicative screens and asset appendices. The final rule defines the default relevant geographic market for an independent power producer located in a generation-only balancing authority area as the balancing authority area of each transmission provider to which the IPP’s generation-only balancing authority area is directly interconnected. It also requires a market-based rate seller to report in its indicative screens and asset appendices all long-term firm purchases of capacity and/or energy that have an associated long-term firm transmission reservation, regardless of whether that seller has operational control of the generation capacity supplying the purchased power. The final rule will take effect 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.