Report — March 21

CALIFORNIA STATE LEGISLATURE

Use of PEG Funding for Non-Capital Costs. Assembly Joint Resolution No. 39 (AJR 39) (Hernandez) requests that Congress provide states and local governments with the flexibility to use Public, Education and Government (PEG) funding for any PEG related expense.

Pursuant to the federal Cable Act and California’s Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 (DIVCA), cable operators are required to provide free dedicated cable channels for PEG access but limits actual financial support for the PEG program to capital costs only. In addition, cable operators must also pay a cable franchise fee of no more than five percent of a cable company’s gross revenue which local governments are authorized to use for any expense, including support for non-capital PEG program costs. In contrast, direct broadcast companies (satellite) are not required, nor do they provide any support for PEG programming, which means that at least one-third of California’s video customers do not have any access to such programming.

Today newer technologies are providing cheaper and more efficient access to PEG programming, and are being adopted by many consumers and entities because it is ubiquitously available and easy to deliver and access. Providing greater access to government and local origination programming through the use of these technologies is spurring greater community engagement.

Given the current significant support already provided by the cable industry for PEG, and the availability of other technologies for delivering PEG content, the California Cable & Telecommunications Association is opposed to the measure. PEG programming is a partnership between the cable industry and local government, with the intention that local governments would equally contribute to PEG’s success. AJR 39 is scheduled to be heard on Monday, March 24, 2014, in the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee.

Creation of the California Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Authority. In response to the PG&E natural gas underground pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Senator Jerry Hill has asked various industries with subsurface infrastructure to collectively recommend improvements to current practices for preventing future excavation accidents.

This week, in a meeting with representatives from public and private electric, natural gas, and water utilities, communications service providers, labor unions, contractors and others, PG&E proposed the creation of the “California Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Authority” which would adjudicate excavation violations and assess civil penalties. The nine-member authority would include representatives from the industries involved, appointed by the governor and legislatures. A similar model was created in the State of Maryland.

Although supported in concept by those in attendance, a number of concerns were raised regarding the proposal. The overall main concern was granting enforcement powers to this new authority. By the end of the meeting, the suggestion was that this entity should primarily focus on identifying repeat violators and creating a “disputes review board” for minor infractions. The more serious violations should continue to either be handled in civil courts or with the current oversight authority, such as the California Public Utilities Commission for all the investor-owned utilities. A small working group will develop an alternative proposal for consider by the larger group.

CALIFORNIA REGULATORY UPDATE

California Teleconnect Fund. On March 10, the California Public Utilities Commission held a workshop in Rulemaking 13-01-010, the proceeding deliberating revisions to the California Teleconnect Fund. CCTA, Cox and Comcast attended the workshop; other attendees included the ILECs, Small LECs, CalTel, Commission staff, TURN, CETF, Center for Accessibility, CENIC and representatives of Community Organizations receiving the Teleconnect discounts.

Several presentations were given with recommendations for revisions to the fund, and the topics most in debate were potential limitations to eligibility for the fund by CBOs, limitations to the types of services available through the fund (e.g., voice), and whether or not non-telephone corporations (I.e., local government) could participate as a provider. CCTA, Cox and Comcast argued that CBOs should not be eliminated by size or income, and that the Commission must be flexible in its approach to recipients; that voice services are integral to Internet access and should remain in the program, and that at best, participation in the fund by non-telephone corporations should be limited to providing service in unserved areas. A Staff workshop summary is scheduled to be provided March 24, and a proposal update is due April 30. Comments and Reply Comments on the proposal update are scheduled for June 30 and July 15 respectively.

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