TR’s State Newswire

Cox California Telecom LLC, the Greenlining Institute, and the Utility Reform Network are asking the Public Utilities Commission to approve a settlement agreement under which Cox will be designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier.

After Cox filed its application for ETC designation in September 2012, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates filed a protest and questioned whether the PUC has the authority to designate Cox, a provider of IP-enabled services, as an eligible telecommunications carrier. The DRA urged the PUC to consider whether Cox qualifies as a common carrier before it considers the company’s application to be designated as an ETC in the state. The PUC, in response, said that “in order to address the request for ETC designation, the CPUC must first ascertain that it has the delegated authority to act on the request.”

Several parties, including the California Association of Competitive Telephone Companies (CALTEL), AT&T California, Inc., and Time Warner Cable, sought intervention in the case on the grounds that the PUC may address SB 1161 — the new law that limits the PUC’s authority over IP services. CALTEL insisted that SB 1161 doesn’t limit or preclude the commission from acting under federal law to designate Cox as an ETC.

Cox, meanwhile, urged the PUC to consider issues related to SB 1161 in a separate proceeding and grant it ETC designation on the merits of its application. A PUC administrative law judge suspended the schedule in the case to allow the parties to engage in settlement negotiations.

According to the settlement agreement submitted this week for PUC approval, “Cox is a certified carrier that utilizes circuit-switched and VoIP technology to provide basic service and Lifeline service.” Also, the settlement provides that “Cox operates as a common carrier as it offers basic service and Lifeline service to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.”

Cox agrees to comply with all state and federal laws regarding the provision of Lifeline service, and the PUC will maintain the authority to address and resolve inquiries and complaints it receives regarding the basic service and Lifeline service provided by Cox, according to the settlement.

The parties claims that the settlement agreement is “reasonable in light of the whole record, is consistent with law, and is in the public interest.”

In addition, the parties agree that the PUC should consider issues related to VoIP providers that offer Lifeline service in its rulemaking (11-03-013) opened to consider potential changes to the state Lifeline program, such as new discount levels; expanding the services eligible for the discount, including wireless Lifeline service, VoIP, and other non-traditional services.

“Designating Cox as an ETC so that it may continue to participate in and seek reimbursement from the California Lifeline program is consistent with the commission’s most recent findings that carriers may utilize any type of technology to provide basic service and carriers providing Lifeline must offer basic service,” the parties said in asking the PUC to approve the agreement. (Docket 12-09-014) -Carrie DeLeon.