REGULATORY REVIEW: SPRING 2013
File No. TO-2013-0397 – In the Matter of the Amount Assessed on Companies to Fund the Missouri Universal Service Fund
On February 15, 2013, the Staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission, acting at the request of the Missouri Universal Service Board, filed a motion asking the Commission to approve a decrease of the Missouri Universal Service Fund (MoUSF) assessment rate from .0025 to .0017. On March 6, 2013, the PSC issued an order approving the Board’s recommendations reducing the assessment rate for the MoUSF from .0025 to .0017, effective July 1, 2013. The Commission closed the file on April 8, 2013.
File No. TO-2013-0416 – In the Matter of the Review of the Relay Missouri Surcharge
The Relay Missouri Program is a statewide dual-party telephone relay service for the deaf, hearing-impaired and speech-impaired. The previous surcharge for the service was set at eleven cents ($0.11) per month per access line. The Staff of the Commission reviewed the level of the surcharges, the fund balance, the retention amount that compensates the local telephone companies that collect and remit the surcharges, and the expenditures for Relay Missouri. On March 12, 2013, the Staff of the Commission filed a motion requesting that the Commission reduce the Relay Missouri Surcharge to eight cents ($0.08) per month per access line.
The Commission issued an Order and Notice on March 13, 2013, allowing potential intervenors until March 22, 2013 to request intervention. The Commission received a timely application to intervene by Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, d/b/a AT&T Missouri. AT&T Missouri did not object to Staff’s request, but it asked that any Commission order changing the surcharge amount have an effective date approximately 60 days from the date of the order, so that it would have enough time to change its billing system.
On April 9, 2013, the Commission granted AT&T Missouri’s application to intervene, and ordered for the Relay Missouri surcharge to be reduced to $0.08, effective July 1, 2013.
File No. AO-2012-0173 – In the Matter of an Investigation into Limitations of Liability of Public Utilities
On September 18, 2012, the Commission issued an Order Directing Filing, whereby the Commission ordered Staff to file another report that “will examine jurisdictions that have reduced regulated utilities’ immunity from liability for personal and property damage and describe how they have done so.” On September 20, 2012, the Commission issued an order directing Staff to file its next report on March, 25, 2013.
On January 8, 2013, the Western District of Missouri Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Public Service Commission v. Missouri Gas Energy, No. WD75024. That case involved tariffs filed by Missouri Gas Energy (MGE) designed to limit MGE from liability for negligence on the customer side of the natural gas meter where MGE had complied with certain Commission rules. The Commission approved the tariffs, but the Office of Public Counsel appealed.
The Court held that the Commission lacked statutory authority to limit the law of negligence by “affording immunity to public utilities from negligence causing personal injury or property damage on a customer’s property, whether or not the immunity is conditioned on compliance with safety rules.” The court reversed and vacated the Commission’s Order.
On February 25, 2013, the Commission ordered that no Staff or any other person should file anything further in the action and closed the file.
File No. TW-2012-0112 – An Investigation into Call Routing and Call Completion Problems in the State of Missouri
In 2011, two groups of small rural incumbent local exchange telephone companies filed separate pleadings asking the Commission to open an investigation to examine call routing and call completion problems in this state. In response to those pleadings, the Commission directed its Staff to indicate whether it believed an investigation was appropriate and to provide an outline of how such an investigation should be conducted. Staff advised the Commission to open a new investigative case and through that case, direct Staff to conduct a workshop where various industry participants can explain the problem in greater detail, discuss possible solutions, and report on actions other jurisdictions have taken to alleviate the problems. The Commission did as Staff suggested.
On March 29, 2013, Staff filed a report regarding its investigation. Staff’s report concluded that call completion problems continued to exist, call completion problems appeared to occur only in rural out-state areas served by small incumbent local telephone companies, the primary cause of call completion problems appeared to be intentional traffic manipulation by certain intermediate providers (a.k.a least-cost routers) used by some originating interexchange carriers. Staff acknowledged that the FCC was taking some actions to address this problem, but Staff suggested more prompt and directed action by the Missouri Commission may be appropriate. To assist it in further investigating the problems, Staff asked for feedback from stakeholders regarding certain issues.
On April 5, 2013, the Commission issued an order offering an opportunity to respond to Staff’s report. On May 3, 2013, comments were filed by CenturyLink, the Missouri Cable Telecommunications Association, the Missouri Small Telephone Companies, and Verizon.
On May 31, 2013, Staff filed a request seeking comment on recently passed legislation that would modify the Commission’s authority to regulate telecommunications companies. Also on May 31, 2013, the Commission issued an order offering interested stakeholders the opportunity to comment on whether the bill, if signed by the Governor, would alter their previously expressed opinions about the Commission’s authority to address call routing and completion problems. The Commission’s order established a June 14, 2013 deadline for any such comments.