Regulatory Review: Spring 2012

Summary of Current PSC Cases and Rulemakings

Compiled by the law firm of Brydon, Swearengen & England, P.C., Jefferson City, Missouri. For further information, contact Trip England or Brian T. McCartney at 573-635-7166.

1. File No. TT-2012-0317 In the Matter of the Tariffs to Reduce Access Rates of Local Telecommunications Companies Pursuant to the Federal Communications Commission Report and Order FCC 11-161
On March 23, 2012, the PSC Staff filed a motion requesting that the PSC establish guidelines for local exchange carrier access tariff revisions required by the FCC’s November Order mandating changes to the Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation.

On April 4, 2012, the PSC issued its order adopting Staff’s proposed procedures. Specifically, the PSC directed any telecommunications carrier modifying its access tariffs to file the tariffs in this case at least 60 days before the effective date of the proposed revision. The tariff submissions are to be accompanied by supporting documentation marked as “proprietary” demonstrating how the proposal complies with the FCC’s Order. The Commission provided a spreadsheet with the minimum information to be included. Any other tariffs revisions, such as local end-user rate adjustments, are to be filed separately (with a tracking number only) as regular 30-day tariffs.

2. File No. TO-2012-0257 In the Matter of an Investigation into Various Issues Related to the Missouri Universal Service Fund
On February 1, 2012, the Commission, acting at the request of the Missouri Universal Service Board, approved a decrease of the Missouri Universal Service Fund (MoUSF) assessment rate from .0029 to .0025, effective April 1, 2012. That order directed the Commission’s Data Center to send a copy of the order to all interexchange carriers, competitive LECs, and incumbent LECs doing business in Missouri. The decrease went into effect on April 1.

3. File No. AO-2012-0173 Investigation into Limitations on Liability for Public Utilities
On December 7, 2011, the PSC issued an order opening an investigation into the tariff provisions of public utilities that address limitations of liability. The PSC’s Order stated: “Recent actions before the Commission have raised issues regarding tariff provisions that address matters otherwise determined by tort law, including liability, immunity, and indemnification among public utilities, customers, and third persons.” The PSC’s Order noted that the liability limitations provisions appeared to differ among utilities, and the Order indicated that the Commission “will consider whether uniform standards for such provisions can benefit public utilities, customers, and third persons.”

On March 30, 2012, PSC Staff issued a Memorandum setting out its analysis with regard to limitation of liability tariff provisions of Missouri utilities. In general, Staff found the provisions to be reasonable. Staff also acknowledged its limited jurisdiction over safety issues related to the telecommunications industry and limited review of telecommunications company tariffs. However, Staff did express concern about the existing language in some telecommunications tariffs and stated that it “would not recommend or support such limitations in a rule or as general practice for the other utility types.”

On April 9, 2012, PSC Staff indicated that it would file the second part of its report, which addresses other State’s policies on limitation of liability provisions in utility tariffs, by July 9, 2012.

4. File No. TW-2012-0112 In the Matter of an Investigation to Examine Call Routing and Call Completion Problems in the State of Missouri
In October of 2011, two groups of small, rural telephone companies filed applications asking the Commission to open an investigative case to examine call routing and completion problems in Missouri. Those cases were closed when the PSC opened this new investigative case and directed its Staff to investigate the concerns raised by the small companies. Staff conducted an initial workshop meeting on November 7, 2011.

On January 6, 2012, Staff filed its initial Staff Report. Among other things, Staff’s Report stated that: (a) Staff has submitted data requests to all Missouri LECs to determine those access tandems where the call completion issues are occurring; (b) once the Staff narrows the matter to certain tandems, it will send data requests to the interexchange carriers who serve those tandems; and (c) Staff has sent letters via e-mail to all certificated telecommunications companies advising them of the illegality of failing to properly complete telephone calls. Staff’s Report also indicated that it would continue to analyze data and meet with the small companies to examine the issue.

5. File No. TE-2012-0073 In the Matter of the Waiver of Certain Rules and Statutes to Telecommunications Companies
In 2008, House Bill 1779 recognized that Missouri’s telecommunications environment had substantially changed and specifically allowed local exchange companies (LECs) to waive a number of traditional Missouri Public Service Commission statutory and rule requirements.

On September 9, 2011, the PSC Staff filed a motion requesting that the Commission adopt a list of standard waivers and grant those standard waivers to all telecommunications companies, except those companies that request the waivers not be granted. On October 12, 2011, the Commission issued its order denying PSC Staff’s request because it did not comply with Missouri’s administrative rulemaking requirements to establish a rule of general applicability. In response, PSC Staff filed a motion with a list of the “standard” waivers it believed were allowed by recent statutory changes. PSC Staff recommended that all companies file notices of their election of waivers in this case for administrative efficiency.

Following the Commission’s order and Staff’s recommendation, most of Missouri’s incumbent LECs and many competitive LECs have elected to waive the “standard” list of rules and statutes listed on Staff’s pleading. The PSC Staff issued positive recommendations, and the PSC has issued orders acknowledging the waivers in this case.

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