Welcome to the November 2011 edition of the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) eNewsletter, where you'll find information on our small business efforts, the 408 area code, and more!


CPUC Co-Sponsors Stockton Small Business Expo and Matchmaking Fair

The CPUC co-sponsored an expo and matchmaking fair for small businesses in northern San Joaquin County in October.

Commissioner Catherine J.K. Sandoval moderated a workshop on Connecting Businesses with State and Utility Contracts. The event was designed to help connect small businesses with companies such as AT&T, Verizon, PG&E, Comcast, and many others in an effort to stimulate job growth in the state.

The expo was co-sponsored by PG&E and the San Joaquin Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The CPUC participates in small business events throughout the state to help connect small businesses to utilities and government procurement specialists. Through its Small Business Program the CPUC hopes to educate businesses on the benefits of becoming certified as a small business, woman-owned, minority owned, and/or disabled veteran-owned business

California State Agencies are under Executive Order to conduct 25 percent of their procurement and contracts with small businesses and 3 percent with Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Enterprises. These small business programs complement the CPUC’s Supplier Diversity Program, which encourages participating utilities to increase procurement levels with women, minority, and disabled veteran-owned business enterprises.

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CPUC Creates Low Income Solar Water Heating Program

The CPUC has established a low income California Solar Initiative (CSI)-Thermal Program.

Under the CPUC’s existing CSI-Thermal Program, $25 million in incentives were set aside in order to promote the installation of gas-displacing solar water heating systems on qualifying low income single-family and multifamily residences in the service areas of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), and San Diego Gas and Electric.

These funds will manifest as increased incentives for qualifying single-family and multifamily low income customers. Incentives for qualifying single-family low income customers will be 200 percent of the applicable CSI-Thermal solar water heater incentive level, while incentives for qualifying multifamily affordable housing will be 150 percent of the applicable CSI-Thermal solar water heater incentive level.

The program will be administered by the same Program Administrators that administer the gas-displacing portion of the general market CSI-Thermal Program, namely PG&E, SoCalGas, and the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

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CPUC Approves New 669 Area Code Overlay to 408 Area Code to Meet Consumer Demand for New Numbers

The CPUC has approved an all-services overlay that will add a new 669 area code to the same geographic region as the existing 408 area code in order to provide additional telephone numbers to meet increasing consumer demand.

The existing 408 and approved 669 area codes primarily cover Santa Clara County, as well as neighboring cities and small unincorporated portions of Alameda and Santa Cruz counties. Cities in the 408 area code include San Jose, as well as the cities of Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Santa Clara, Saratoga, Sunnyvale, and a portion of Palo Alto.

An area code overlay adds a second area code to the same geographic region as an existing area code. Therefore, multiple area codes can co-exist within the same geographic region. New telephone numbers with the 669 area code will be issued to customers requesting new telecommunication services beginning in November 2012.

Customers will not be required to change their existing telephone numbers. But, consumers calling any number in the 408 area code will have to dial the area code plus phone number beginning six months from today. If they do not, their calls will still go through for a six-month grace period. The new dialing procedure must be used beginning in October 2012.

To help educate consumers about the new area code, the CPUC has established a public education program task force consisting of CPUC staff and at least one representative from each telephone service provider or industry holder of numbering resources in the 408 area code.

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CPUC Leads Industry With Ban on Use of Personal Electronic Devices by Rail Transit Operators

The CPUC has adopted a first-of-its-kind regulation enforcing prohibitions against the use of personal electronic devices, such as cell phones, by rail transit system operators.

The new General Order 172 was prompted by the September 2008 tragedy at Chatsworth, where 25 people died and more than 100 were injured when a Metrolink passenger train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train. The investigation concluded that the Metrolink train's engineer failed to stop for a red signal because he was distracted by numerous texting exchanges on his personal cell phone seconds before the collision occurred.

Six days after the accident, the CPUC adopted an interim emergency order prohibiting personal use of cell phones and other electronic communication devices, such as satellite phones, pagers, and smart phones, by railroad and rail transit crew members. In addition to the Chatsworth accident, additional evidence emerged that a June 2008 San Francisco Muni light rail vehicle collision was likely caused by operator cell phone distraction. The Federal Railroad Administration subsequently adopted a ban for the nation’s railroads. However, those regulations do not cover rail transit systems that the CPUC has regulatory responsibility for, such as Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), the San Diego Trolley, San Francisco Muni, and other rail transit systems.

The new General Order approved by the CPUC as a permanent regulation for rail transit systems will increase the safety of crews and passengers in the state by requiring a zero-tolerance policy for personal electronic device use by operating employees, and by requiring effective enforcement of that policy. As a first in the nation, this General Order will require the state’s rail transit systems to install inward facing cameras in the train operator’s cab. The cameras will provide a level of accountability not possible without this enforcement tool.

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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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