Welcome to the September edition of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) eNewsletter, where you’ll find information on a new one-time bill assistance program for families in need, LifeLine Awareness Week, the CPUC’s independent evaluation of PG&E’s Smart Meters, a new broadband map, and more!


National LifeLine Awareness Week

The CPUC will sponsor and organize more than 10 events throughout the State to promote National LifeLine Awareness Week

LifeLine Awareness week will take place September 13-19, 2010, to promote the LifeLine program.  California LifeLine provides discounted basic telephone (landline) services to eligible California households.  Currently, there are about 2.9 million eligible households, but only 1.8 million are registered and receiving the necessary benefits.  This is a national event and throughout the week of September 13th there will be an increased effort to raise awareness and ensure that all households who are eligible have the opportunity to register. 

If you have any questions regarding the LifeLine program, please contact your phone company or call the LifeLine call center at 1-866-272-0349.

If you have a specific question regarding a LifeLine event being held during the week of September 13th, please contact Rosalina White at 415-703-5355 or email at raw@cpuc.ca.gov.

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Small Business Information Needed

The CPUC wants to understand how small- and medium-sized businesses get their information about electric rates.  The electric rates that we’ve all been accustomed to will soon change, and the CPUC wants to make sure these businesses have all the necessary information to be able to make the best energy choices.

The amount of electricity we use in California, and how much that electricity costs, varies based on the time of day and the time of year.  Big differences between high demand and low demand make supplying the right amount of electricity challenging and increasingly expensive.  One way to help the situation is to reduce the amount of electricity we use during peak times.

To that end, California’s electric industry is progressively moving toward dynamic pricing.  Large business customers currently operate under a Time of Use (TOU) rate and many participate in additional time differentiated rates such as Critical Peak Pricing (CPP) or Peak Day Pricing (PDP) rates where their rate is lower during off-peak times and higher during peak times. Small- and medium-sized business customers will be moving from a flat rate to a TOU rate and other optional rates will be made available.  But before we move in that direction we want to learn how best to send you information on these rates; is it through this newsletter, through your electric utility, through local channels (i.e., Chambers of Commerce, workshops, etc), or some other way.  Please let us know how you prefer to receive this type of information by contacting Sommer Harvey at 415-703-1182 or email at sommer.harvey@cpuc.ca.gov.

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CPUC News In Brief

  • The Structure Group, a consultant retained by the CPUC to independently evaluate Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Smart Meters and billing systems, will present a summary of its findings to the CPUC at the September 2, 2010, voting meeting.  The presentation will be accompanied by the release of the report compiled by Structure.
  • The CPUC has approved a refund of $120 million to customers of San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E) as a result of an over-collection of funds needed to pay for the cost of electricity.  The overcollection is due to lower than expected fuel cost expenses and higher than expected refunds from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Refunds will be made to customers in the form of a one-time bill credit beginning September 1, 2010. Most credits will range from $15 to $25, with some customers receiving more than $100, depending on energy usage and the climate zone in which they live.
  • The CPUC has added information to its website on its enforcement actions.  The CPUC investigates alleged violations of the Public Utilities Code, CPUC regulations, and other California statutes involving stationary utilities, including telephone (including wireless), electric, gas, and water companies.  These investigations generally involve consumer fraud and marketing abuses, and issues of public safety. On the new Enforcement page, you can see a list of ongoing or recently resolved utility enforcement cases.
  • The CPUC has also added an icon on its homepage to link users to its Supplier Diversity Clearinghouse, a CPUC-supervised entity whose primary purpose is to audit and verify the status of woman and minority owned businesses, and to establish and maintain a database of woman, minority, and service disabled veteran owned businesses that is accessible to the CPUC and to participating utilities to use when looking for companies to contract with for services.
  • The CPUC reminds contractors and those planning a home improvement job, planting a tree, installing a fence or deck, and performing any digging job to “Call Before You Dig”. The federally created national Call Before You Dig number, 811, was created to help protect people from unintentionally hitting underground utility lines while working on digging projects. People digging often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked due to concerns about project delays, costs, and previous calls about other projects. These assumptions can be life-threatening. Every digging job requires a call - even small projects like planting trees or shrubs. If you hit an underground utility line while digging, you can harm yourself or those around you, disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, and potentially be responsible for fines and repair costs. By calling 811 at least two business days (not including weekends or holidays) before excavating, excavators can have underground utilities located and marked, or receive confirmation if no facilities are in the excavation area. This free service helps prevent injuries, deaths, damages, and inconvenience.

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CPUC Encourages Families in Need to Take Advantage of New One-Time Bill Assistance Program

The CPUC is encouraging families in need who are customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, or Southern California Gas Company to sign up for a one-time payment grant to pay off their past due utility bills in order to help avoid disconnection of utility service.

Temporary Energy Assistance for Families (TEAF), authorized by the CPUC and funded, in large part, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will provide up to $1,500 to income-qualified families who are unable to pay for their energy needs due to an unplanned hardship.

The Salvation Army is administering the program for all four utilities. Customers interested in the program are encouraged to contact The Salvation Army for program details and eligibility guidelines by calling 1-800-933-9677 or by visiting The Salvation Army’s Golden State Division website and clicking on Temporary Energy Assistance for Families, where applications can also be downloaded. The Salvation Army will accept applications for assistance until September 21, 2010.

In order to qualify for the program, the utility bill must be in the applicant's name and the applicant must be a parent, guardian, or non-custodial parent of a child under 18 years of age. The applicant must provide a copy of their current utility bill with the past due amount, a photo identification card, documents verifying U.S. citizenship for each household member (birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, passport), and documents verifying household income (pay stub, proof of public assistance, current bank statement, 2009 income tax return, etc.) to establish that their household income is below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

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CPUC Publishes New Broadband Availability Map

Broadband Internet access service (defined as service having speeds of at least 768 kbps downstream, and 200 kbps upstream) is becoming essential to education, public health, safety, and economic development.  State and federal legislators and regulators are in agreement that broadband service should be available to all, and are in the process of implementing policies to achieve that result. 

In October 2009, the CPUC received a $2,300,000 Recovery Act grant to collect broadband availability data as part of a national broadband inventory mapping effort, after Governor Schwarzenegger designated the CPUC as the single entity in the state eligible to participate in the grant program.  Under the grant, new data will be collected, and maps updated, every six months.  The CPUC has now published its first broadband availability map reflecting these data.   

The state last issued a broadband availability map in January 2008, as part of the Governor’s Broadband Task Force Report.  This new map reflects substantial growth in broadband deployment since then and details the highest speed service that is available within individual census blocks for “small” blocks two square miles or less, and individual street segments for larger census blocks.  The new broadband availability maps will be used by state and federal policymakers to determine what areas of the state, or groups of people, are unserved or underserved, and  will guide subsidies, grants, and other policies necessary to make broadband service available to all California residents.

An interactive map-based website will soon be established by the CPUC to allow users to determine the status of broadband service (providers, technology used, upstream and downstream speeds, contact information, etc.) at any location in the state.

While the CPUC’s current mapping grant ends in September 2011, an amended grant application to extend the program through 2014 is pending.

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Visit our Consumer Information Center for more assistance. Consumers with utility complaints can call our Consumer Affairs Branch at 1-800-649-7570.

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© 2010, California Public Utilities Commission. All rights reserved.
September 2010


Produced by the CPUC's News and Public Information Office and Business and Community Outreach, 415-703-1366, news@cpuc.ca.gov
505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102.

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