Existing law, the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, establishes a program of cooperative federalism for the regulation of telecommunications to attain the goal of local competition, while implementing specific, predictable, and sufficient federal and state mechanisms to preserve and advance universal service, consistent with certain universal service principles. Under the act, universal… More
Existing law, the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, establishes a program of cooperative federalism for the regulation of telecommunications to attain the goal of local competition, while implementing specific, predictable, and sufficient federal and state mechanisms to preserve and advance universal service, consistent with certain universal service principles. Under the act, universal service is an evolving level of telecommunications services that the Federal Communications Commission is required to establish periodically, taking into account advances in telecommunications and information technologies and services. Pursuant to the act, the Federal Communications Commission has established and revised a lifeline program that is available for qualifying low-income consumers.
Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory authority over public utilities, including telephone corporations. The Moore Universal Telephone Service Act establishes the Universal Lifeline Telephone Service program in order to provide low-income households with access to affordable basic residential telephone service. Existing law establishes the Universal Lifeline Telephone Service Trust Administrative Committee Fund in the State Treasury.
This bill would recast the Moore Universal Telephone Service Act so that it would provide a household, as defined, having an eligible customer, as defined, with high-quality voice communications service at affordable rates. The bill would state the intent of the Legislature to ensure that California residents have access to technologies and services and to promote technological neutrality by giving lifeline customers the ability to choose the communications provider and service that best meet their unique needs, while encouraging providers to participate in the lifeline program.
The Moore Universal Telephone Service Act requires the Public Utilities Commission to annually designate a class of lifeline service necessary to meet minimum residential, as defined, communications needs, to set the rates and charges for that service, to develop eligibility criteria for that service, and to assess the degree of achievement of universal service, including telephone penetration rates by income, ethnicity, and geography.
The bill would instead require the Public Utilities Commission to annually develop eligibility criteria for customers to participate in the program, assess the penetration rates for lifeline service by income, ethnicity, and geography, and to prepare and submit a report to the Legislature on the fiscal status of the lifeline program that includes a statement of the lifeline program surcharge level and revenues produced by the surcharge, the size of the Universal Lifeline Telephone Service Trust Administrative Committee Fund, the reason for a decline or increase in the size of the fund, if applicable, an accounting of program expenses, and an evaluation of options for controlling those expenses and increasing program efficiency.
The Moore Universal Telephone Service Act requires that the Universal Lifeline Telephone Service rates be set at no more than 50% of either the basic rate for measured residential telephone service or the basic flat residential telephone rate service, as applicable, exclusive of federally mandated end user access charges that are available to the residential subscriber. Existing law requires that the lifeline telephone service installation or connection charge, or both, be not more than 50% of the charge for basic residential service installation or connection.
The bill would repeal these requirements and instead require that through and including December 31, 2014, the nonrecurring service charge for commencing voice service for a single voice connection for a lifeline customer be no greater than $10. Until and including December 31, 2014, the lifeline provider would be eligible for reimbursement from the fund for the difference between the nonrecurring charge paid by a lifeline subscriber and the nonrecurring charge the lifeline provider charges for identical services in the ordinary course of business to subscribers that are not eligible customers, subject to the limitation that the reimbursement can be no more than $40 per connection. Beginning January 1, 2015, the Public Utilities Commission would be authorized to annually increase the nonrecurring service charge incurred by eligible customers, and the lifeline provider connection reimbursement, by an amount in proportion to the increase, if any, to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). The bill would authorize the commission to authorize a lifeline provider to be reimbursed pursuant to these provisions, for commencing voice service for an eligible customer, only if that provider is the customer’s carrier of last resort for basic service.
The bill would require that every eligible customer be given a discount of $11.85 per month, in addition to any federally supported lifeline discount provided to customers of an eligible telecommunications carrier, and would, beginning January 1, 2015, authorize the commission to annually adjust the support amount in proportion to the increase, if any, in the CPI-U. The bill would provide that an eligible customer is not entitled to any combined monthly federal and state lifeline support in excess of the customer’s monthly rate. The bill would require that state lifeline support be provided only after federal lifeline support, if any, is received by an eligible customer.The bill would require that all providers participating in the California lifeline program offer lifeline service at the same rates that were in effect on July 1, 2013, through and including December 31, 2014. The bill would require every lifeline provider, on first contact by a prospective eligible customer, to inform the customer of the availability of the lifeline discount and how that customer may qualify for and obtain the discount. The bill would provide that a lifeline provider that is a prospective eligible customer’s carrier of last resort for basic service remains subject to any customer notification obligations applicable to the provision of basic service.
The Public Utilities Act prohibits any telephone corporation from beginning the construction of, among other things, a line, plant, or system, or of any extension thereof, without having first obtained from the commission a certificate that the present or future public convenience and necessity require or will require that construction (certificate of public convenience and necessity).
This bill would prohibit the commission from denying or revoking a certificate of public convenience and necessity applied for by or issued to a telephone corporation that provides retail or wholesale telecommunications services on the grounds that the telephone corporation also provides Voice over Internet Protocol service or any other unregulated service.Under existing law, a violation of the Public Utilities Act or any order, decision, rule, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission is a crime.
Because the provisions of this bill would be a part of the act and would require action by the Public Utilities Commission to implement its requirements, and because the bill would expand the class of lifeline providers, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program by expanding the scope of a crime.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.