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CPUC Issues Staff Report on Major Communication Outages During January-February 2017 Storms

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In our ongoing efforts to guarantee safe, reliable service at reasonable rates, today we released a staff report titled, Analysis of Major Communication Outages in California During the 2017 January-February Storms.  The report examines the causes of major customer outages of the communications networks during the severe storms, a season when California experienced the most rainfall in recorded history.

The staff report, issued by our Communications Division, analyzes carrier reporting data during the 2017 storms and shows that almost 1 million customers could not call 9-1-1, more than 790,000 experienced loss of communication service, and more than 52,000 businesses experienced service interruptions.  Network equipment failures (59 percent of reported outages) and loss of power (41 percent) caused wireline service outages.  Sources of wireless service outages included loss of commercial power (39 percent), hardware issues (29 percent), and cable issues (23 percent).

The report concludes that better availability of backup power for wireless providers and improved reliability of cable facilities for wireline providers could have prevented many of the reported outages.  Final recommendations intend to strengthen the communications network and to focus on working with service providers on their performance, facilities reinvestment plans, and identifying vulnerable locations, among others.

Findings and recommendations in the report will inform the CPUC on the quality and reliability of the state's existing infrastructure during the 2017 storms in order to spotlight ways to improve critical interconnected communications and overall public safety, particularly essential when disasters strike.

CPUC Approves $97.5 Million Settlement Agreement in PG&E Ex Parte Proceedings

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Today the CPUC adopted a settlement agreement  totaling $97.5 million that resolves eight proceedings in which Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) admittedly failed to timely report ex parte communications from 2010 to 2014, and engaged in improper ex parte communications, in violation of CPUC rules.  

Ex parte communications with the CPUC are subject to unique reporting rules, which require a party to a CPUC proceeding to disclose the nature of the communication in certain CPUC proceedings to maintain transparency and integrity of CPUC proceedings.  PG&E's failure to  report these communications is an unacceptable violation of the CPUC's rules and justifies the remedy provided in this case.  Although these violations occurred more than four years ago, today's decision is an affirmation that all parties to the CPUC's proceedings must comply with the ex parte rules.  

Under the settlement agreement, PG&E will make the following payments from shareholder funds:

• $12 million to the state's General Fund

• $6 million to the City of San Bruno General Fund

• $6 million to the City of San Carlos General Fund

• $10 million in its next General Rate Case

In addition, PG&E will forgo collection of $63.5 million in revenue requirements for 2018 and 2019. 

The settling parties are the City of San Bruno, the City of San Carlos, the CPUC's Office of Ratepayer Advocates, the CPUC's Safety and Enforcement Division, The Utility Reform Network, and PG&E.

The proceeding remains open to consider whether PG&E's newly disclosed email communications violate the CPUC's ex parte rules and should result in the imposition of additional fines.

CPUC Approves Grants to Increase Broadband Adoption For Public Housing

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Today we approved grant funding for a public housing adoption project and authorized the release of grant funding to a broadband infrastructure project in our continual efforts to help bridge the digital divide in California.

At our Voting Meeting the Commissioners authorized grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to the Oakland Housing Authority and Cal.net, Inc. for programs to expand broadband adoption and infrastructure deployment.

We allocated $98,495 from the CASF to the Oakland Housing Authority for the Lockwood Learning Center project to provide access to digital literary training and computer-based job skills training for up to 804 low income residents in the Lockwood Gardens Apartments. Tech Exchange (formerly Oakland Technology Exchange) is the designated non-for-profit contractor who will work with the Oakland Housing Authority to provide public outreach, digital literacy instruction, parts of the curriculum, refurbished computers, and technology support for the proposed project.  

On January 14, 2016, the CPUC conditionally authorized a CASF grant of $1,139,755 to Cal.net, Inc. to construct the El Dorado North broadband project, subject to the CPUC's completion of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review.  Today, the CPUC approved the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration prepared in compliance with CEQA for Cal.net's El Dorado North broadband project and authorized the release of $1,139,755 to Cal.net to construct the project that will provide high-speed Internet service and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony service to the northern regions of El Dorado County. This will allow Cal.net to extend their service availability in the region. The current lack of broadband infrastructure places the county at a substantial economic disadvantage.  The grant amount represents 60 percent of the total estimated project of $1,899,591.

The proposed projects will provide a comprehensive approach to the addressed issues around the digital divide for residents of underserved communities.

CASF promotes deployment of high-quality advanced communication services to Californians.  Most program funds are for infrastructure deployment.  Some funds are for broadband adoption, awareness, training, and access.

CPUC Names New Chief Administrative Law Judge: CPUC Information Alert

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 Simon ALJ Oath

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today announced that it has named Anne E. Simon as Chief Administrative Law Judge, effective April 12, 2018.

"I am very happy to welcome Anne to the position of Chief Administrative Law Judge," said CPUC President Michael Picker.  "She has a steady and strong leadership style, and brings a wealth of experience to the Administrative Law Judge Division."

"The CPUC's Administrative Law Judge Division is dedicated to serving the people of California, and I thank the Commissioners for the opportunity to lead the many professionals in the Division," said Ms. Simon.

Since August 2017, Ms. Simon has served as Acting Chief Administrative Law Judge. Prior, she was an Administrative Law Judge at the CPUC since 2002, presiding over cases in all industries of the CPUC's work.  Prior to joining the CPUC, she worked with community groups on environmental justice issues as a staff attorney at Communities for a Better Environment, and at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where she was Director of the affiliated Environmental Law Community Clinic.  Before moving to California, Ms. Simon was Chief Administrative Law Judge at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.  As an attorney, Ms. Simon practiced civil rights, women's rights, and international human rights law on the East Coast, as a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and at the NOW Legal Defense Fund, both in New York.  She began her career at the New Haven Law Collective, with a community based practice of family law, consumer law, and civil rights. Ms. Simon graduated from Harvard University and Yale Law School. 

The CPUC's Chief Administrative Law Judge directs the Administrative Law Judge Division consistent with the law. The Administrative Law Judge Division processes formal filings, facilitates alternative dispute resolution, conducts hearings, develops an adequate administrative record, prepares timely proposals for Commissioner consideration, and prepares and coordinates CPUC Voting Meeting agendas.

Staff Issues Report on Outreach Methods

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Today we issued a report from our News and Outreach Office that details the responses that 42 different regulatory agencies throughout the U.S. shared with us about their outreach activities.

The research demonstrated that the CPUC is well within norms of other institutions in terms of outreach activities, but there are additional outreach methods that the CPUC could implement to improve its program. The report includes recommendations for future improvement.

The report complies with Senate Bill 512 (Hill, 2016), which directed the CPUC to: "…undertake one or more studies of outreach efforts undertaken by other state and federal utility regulatory bodies and to make recommendations to the commission to promote effective outreach, including metrics for use in evaluating success."

You can read the report on our website.

If you have any questions or comments, please email news@cpuc.ca.gov.

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