On October 3, 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) voted to approve a settlement agreement between Cox California Telecom LLC, the Greenlining Institute, and the Utility Reform Network. The settlement paves the way for Cox to be designated an ETC in California.
Cox utilizes circuit-switched and VoIP technology to provide service in California and filed for ETC designation in September of 2012. A protest was filed by the CPUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates, questioning whether the CPUC has authority to designate providers of IP-enabled services as ETCs and urging the CPUC to first consider whether Cox is a common carrier. Numerous parties interviened on the grounds that this proceeding purported to address issues under SB 1161, the new law that limits the CPUC’s authority over IP-based services. Cox urged the CPUC to consider IP issues in a seperate proceeding and grant it ETC designation on the merits of its application.
Under the settlement agreement, Cox agreed to comply with all state and federal laws regarding the provision of Lifeline service. It further agreed that the CPUC will have authority to address inquiries and complaints it receives regarding Cox’s service, according to the settlement. In addition, the parties to the settlement agree that the CPUC should consider issues related to VoIP providers in its rulemaking opened to consider potential changes to the state LifeLine program, including whether the state program should be expanded to include wireless, VoIP, and other non-traditional services.
While the timing is unclear, Commissioner Sandoval, the assigned Commissioner for the CPUC’s state LifeLine prodeeding, has promised a Proposed Decision by the end of the year.