PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION
[52 PA. CODE CH. 63]
[38 Pa.B. 2056]
[Saturday, May 3, 2008]
[ L-2008-2020165/57-261 ]
Telecommunications Relay Service System and Relay Service Fund
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Commission) on January 24, 2008, adopted a proposed rulemaking order which ensures adequate Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) fund balances, timely remittance of TRS fund revenues and cooperation with TRS fund audits.
On January 25, 2008, at Docket No. L-2008-2020165, the Commission entered a proposed rulemaking order soliciting comments on changing, clarifying and codifying provisions of the existing Policy Statement in 52 Pa. Code §§ 69.511--69.513 relating to the operation of the TRS System and the Relay Service Fund. Interested persons will be provided with 30 days from the date the order is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin to submit comments regarding the proposed regulation.
The Commission is proposing to codify existing reporting and remitting obligations of the wireline carriers, which have been the operative norm for a number of years, under both the Commission's 1990 orders at M-00900239 and the existing Policy Statement. Voluntary compliance with the policy statement has been spotty, leading to extended collection efforts, estimated surcharges, and inequitable allocations of the costs of the funded programs. The proposed regulation will not create any significant new burdens on affected wireline carriers. The reporting and remitting forms will stay the same, but the filing dates and filing destinations would change. The Annual Access Line Summary Report (number of lines in service as of a particular day) would be due 2 months earlier than under the existing Policy Statement. The Annual Tracking Report (list of monthly remittances for a prior 12-month period) would be due 1 month earlier than under the existing Policy Statement. Both forms would be filed with the Commission's Secretary's Bureau.
The Commission views the proposed regulation as a tool to ensure timely, accurate and equitable funding of the programs mandated by the Universal Telecommunications and Print Media Access Act (35 P. S. §§ 6701.1--6701.4).
Public Meeting held
January 24, 2008
Commissioners Present: Wendell F. Holland, Chairperson; James H. Cawley, Vice Chairperson; Tyrone J. Christy; Kim Pizzingrilli, Statement follows
Proposed Rulemaking to Amend 52 Pa. Code Chapter 63 (relating to Telephone Service) re Operation of Telecommunications Relay Service System and Relay Service Fund; Doc. No. L-2008-2020165
Proposed Rulemaking Order
By the Commission:
The Commission's Policy Statement in 52 Pa. Code §§ 69.511--69.513 became effective after publication at 29 Pa.B. 2034 (April 17, 1999). The Policy Statement establishes parameters for collecting information necessary to manage the TRS fund. We propose herein a rulemaking to codify provisions of the Policy Statement so as to ensure adequate TRS fund balances, timely remittance of TRS fund revenues, and cooperation with TRS fund audits. Comments on this Proposed Rulemaking may be filed on or before 30 days after the date of publication of this Order in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Reply comments will not be accepted.
Specifically, we propose to: (1) move the due date for the filing of the annual access line summary report from April 30 to March 1; (2) move the due date for the filing of the annual tracking report from April 30 to March 31 and adjust the reporting year from April-through-March to March-through-February; (3) direct that both reports be filed with the Commission's Secretary's Bureau; and (4) establish enforcement procedures for inaccurate, late, or missing TRS reports and for inaccurate, late, or missing TRS fund payments. Upon completion of the rulemaking, we shall rescind the Policy Statement.
On May 24, 1990, at Docket No. M-00900239, the Commission approved the implementation of the Pennsylvania TRS1 and established a funding mechanism. The TRS assists people with hearing and/or speech disabilities to use the telephone and seeks to ensure equivalent access to telecommunications services. In 1996, the Telecommunications Device Distribution Program (TDDP) was implemented to provide assistive customer premises equipment based upon income-level criteria. In 2005, the Print Media Access System Program (PMASP) was added to provide newspaper reading services for persons who are blind. These three programs are now collectively codified at the Universal Telecommunications and Print Media Access Act.
Costs associated with the intrastate operations of the three programs are recovered from residential and business wireline access line end-users by a monthly surcharge (TRS Surcharge) on local service telephone bills. The TRS Surcharge is recalculated annually and adjusted as necessary, effective July 1, based upon projected costs of the various programs and the number of wireline access lines in service as of December 31 of the preceding year. LECs remit the TRS Surcharge collection revenues monthly to the TRS Fund Administrator. See annual orders at TRS, Docket No. M-00900239.
In 1999, to ensure the successful operation of the TRS fund, the Commission, at Docket No. M-00900239, adopted the existing Policy Statement. The intent of the Policy Statement was to address the difficulties that the Commission was experiencing in collecting the surcharge revenues and to foster cooperation from the LECs in submitting the documentation required to conduct annual audits of the TRS fund.
The existing Policy Statement provides that LECs ''file'' their annual access line summary reports2 with the Bureau of Fixed Utility Services (FUS) by April 30. The Commission uses the annual summary line count information to establish adjustments to the TRS Surcharge by June 1, and the LECs implement any required changes by July 1. The existing Policy Statement also provides that the LECs ''file'' their annual tracking reports with FUS by April 30, tallying the monthly collected TRS surcharge revenues. The tracking reports cover a 12-month period from April to March. The tracking information is used by the Commission to reconcile the TRS Fund. 52 Pa. Code §§ 69.511--69.513.3
Under 66 Pa.C.S. §§ 3015(e)(3) and (6), the Commission is expressly authorized to require the submission of annual access line summary reports and annual tracking reports.
Our Policy Statement specifying filing dates, payment obligations, and enforcement procedures has been in effect since 1999. At this time, we propose to codify portions of its provisions in our regulations in 52 Pa. Code § 63.37. Promulgating parameters for the annual reporting and monthly payments in our regulations will ensure that all LECs are held to the same standards for compliance and ensure that the binding norms are properly imposed in compliance with the Regulatory Review Act (71 P. S. §§ 745.1--745.14).
The purpose for the Policy Statement was to ensure accurate TRS Surcharge calculations, accurate and timely remittance of TRS Surcharge revenues, and cooperation with audit procedures. These goals remain equally valid today for the proposed rulemaking. The Bureau of Audits (Audits) uses the tracking report data to conduct periodic audits of the TRS fund. A LEC's failure to submit its annual tracking report on a timely and accurate basis impairs Audits' ability to complete the required audits of the Fund. Timely and accurate remittance of the TRS revenues and timely and accurate filing of the tracking reports are essential to properly capitalize the Fund by the surcharge revenue and the related investment income that the revenues would have earned.
Similarly, FUS uses the access line counts to calculate the next years' TRS surcharge. A LEC's failure to timely submit its annual access line summary report or to accurately report its access line information impairs FUS' ability to calculate the proper TRS surcharge rates. Receipt of a timely and accurate annual access line summary report is essential to avoid underfunding (or overfunding) the TRS Fund.
Rather than use the exact language of the existing Policy Statement, however, we are proposing to streamline and clarify the language. We also propose to adjust time lines and to provide that the requisite reports be filed with the Secretary's Bureau rather than with FUS.
Sections 69.511(b) and 69.513(b) of the existing Policy Statement provide that LECs submit their annual access line summary report by April 30. This would change to March 1 under the proposed regulations. With the increase in the number of LECs and the additional funded programs since 1990, the window between April 30 when line count reports are submitted under the Policy Statement and July 1 when the new TRS Surcharge takes effect is insufficient. To establish the monthly surcharge for each year, the Commission has only 1 month to receive the reports of annual access line counts from individual LECs, track down missing reports, factor in the cost estimates of the three programs and ancillary costs, and approve and publish the new surcharge. The new surcharge is published by June 1 so as to give the LECs time to file tariff changes and process billing system adjustments in order to implement the new surcharge by July 1. Missing reports require Staff to estimate line counts. Estimated or inaccurate line counts can skew the TRS surcharge and result in over or under collections in the TRS fund. Moving the due date for the annual access line summary reports to March 1 will ensure greater precision in setting the TRS surcharge each year. We do not propose to change the date to count the lines in service. We believe that the time period between January 2 and February 28 should be sufficient to count and report access lines in service.
Sections 69.511(b) and 69.513(a) of the existing Policy Statement provide that LECs submit their annual tracking reports by April 30. This would change to March 31 under the proposed regulation. This earlier date will allow better tracking of the filing compliance by the LECs. The months covered by the tracking report would shift from April-through-March to March-through-February for the preceding year.
Under the Policy Statement, LECs file their access line count and tracking reports with FUS. Under the proposed regulations, the LECs would file their annual access line summary reports and their annual tracking reports directly with the Commission's Secretary's Bureau rather than with FUS. This change is appropriate because the Secretary's Bureau is the official recipient of all matters to be filed with the Commission. See 52 Pa. Code § 1.4.
Finally, we propose to clarify the language relating to enforcement matters. The Policy Statement provides, inter alia, that a LEC that fails to remit timely tracking data may need to reimburse the Fund for lost earnings and is subject to all available remedies to ensure reporting and remittance compliance including fines and the revocation of Certificates of Public Convenience. The proposed regulation addresses failures to submit the line count reports, the tracking reports, or the payments in an accurate and timely manner. Under the proposed regulations, LECs that fail to timely and accurately submit a tracking report or an access line summary report or that fail to timely and accurately remit TRS surcharge revenues will be subject to reimbursement obligations. The Commission will utilize all available remedies to ensure accurate and timely reporting and remittance compliance, including interest on late payments, fines, and the revocation of certificates of public convenience.
Interested parties shall have 30 days to comment on the proposed regulations, which are attached in Annex A. Reply comments will not be accepted.
Accordingly, under 66 Pa.C.S. §§ 501, 1501, 3015 and 3019; sections 201 and 202 of the act of July 31, 1968 (P. L. 769, No. 240) (45 P. S. §§ 1201 and 1202), and the associated regulations in 1 Pa. Code §§ 7.1, 7.2 and 7.5; section 204(b) of the Commonwealth Attorneys Act (71 P. S. § 732.204(b)); section 5 of the Regulatory Review Act (71 P. S. § 745.5); section 612 of The Administrative Code of 1929 (71 P. S. § 232), and the associated regulations in 4 Pa. Code §§ 7.231, 7.232, 7.233 and 7.234, we are considering adoption of the proposed regulation in Chapter 63 to our regulation in telephone service as set forth in Annex A; Therefore,
It Is Ordered that:
1. This docket be opened to consider the proposed regulation set forth in Annex A.
2. The Secretary shall submit this order and Annex A to the Office of Attorney General for review as to form and legality and to the Governor's Budget Office for review of fiscal impact.
3. The Secretary shall submit this order and Annex A for review and comment to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the Legislative Standing Committees.
4. The Secretary shall certify this order and Annex A and deposit them with the Legislative Reference Bureau to be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
5. An original and 15 copies of any comments referencing the docket number of the proposed regulation be submitted within 30 days of publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Attn.: Secretary, P. O. Box 3265, Harrisburg, PA 17105-3265. In addition, one copy in electronic format (Microsoft Office Word® 2003 or readable equivalent) on diskette shall be provided to the Secretary. Additionally, electronic copies of the filings should be emailed to Louise Fink Smith, Esq., Law Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org and to Anthony J. Rametta, Fixed Utility Services at email@example.com. No reply comments are permitted.
6. The contact persons for this rulemaking are Anthony Rametta, Bureau of Fixed Utility Services, (717) 787-2359 (technical), and Louise Fink Smith, Assistant Counsel, Law Bureau, (717) 787-8866 (legal). Alternate formats of this document are available to persons with disabilities and may be obtained by contacting Sherri DelBiondo, Regulatory Coordinator, Law Bureau, (717) 772-4597.
7. A copy of this order and Annex A shall be served upon the Pennsylvania Telephone Association, all jurisdictional local telecommunications utilities in this Commonwealth, the Office of Trial Staff, the Office of Consumer Advocate, the Office of the Small Business Advocate and the Telecommunications Relay Service Advisory Board and posted on the Commission's web site.
8. A copy of this order be filed at Docket No. M-00900239.
JAMES J. MCNULTY,
(Editor's Note: It is the intent of the Commission to rescind the statement of policy in §§ 69.511--69.513 upon final adoption of this proposed rulemaking.)
Fiscal Note: 57-261. No fiscal impact; (8) recommends adoption.
STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER
Today the Commission initiates a rulemaking to codify our current policy statement governing the filing and reporting requirements related to the Commission's monitoring of the Telecommunication Relay Service (TRS) program. See 52 Pa. Code §§ 69.511--69.513. The Policy Statement requires that local exchange carriers file an annual access line count summary and tracking report with the Commission. The information contained in these reports is used by the Commission to calculate the annual TRS Surcharge Adjustment and audit the TRS program.
I fully support the codification of the Policy Statement and believe that promulgating regulations will promote a greater level of compliance with the reporting requirements set forth in the Policy Statement and enhance the ability of the Commission to enforce these requirements.
I also support moving the access line count summary reporting date from April 30 to March 1 of each year. The earlier reporting date affords Commission Staff much needed time to collect line count information and ensure a timely and accurate calculation of the TRS surcharge.
However, I question whether the need exists, at this time, to adjust the reporting period and filing deadline for the annual tracking report from April 30 to March 31. This report is used by the Commission to audit the TRS program. A change to the filing date of the access line report does not necessarily support a change to the tracking report filing deadline.
Despite my reservation regarding the change proposed to the tracking report deadline, I support the initiation of this rulemaking and look forward to reviewing the comments of the parties. In light of this proposed rulemaking, it may be prudent for the Commission to begin a comprehensive review of the reporting deadlines for each of the reports required by the Commission and evaluate whether consistency can be established for reporting deadlines rather than the current varying due dates.
TITLE 52. PUBLIC UTILITIES
PART I. PUBLIC UTILTIY COMMISSION
Subpart C. FIXED SERVICE UTILITIES
CHAPTER 63. TELEPHONE SERVICE
Subchapter C. ACCOUNTS AND RECORDS
§ 63.37. Operation of the Telecommunications Relay Service System and Relay Service Fund.
(1) The Pennsylvania Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS), the Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf Program, and the Print Media Access System Program are codified in the Universal Telecommunications and Print Media Access Act (35 P. S. §§ 6701.1--6701.4). The Relay Service Fund (Fund) covers eligible intraState costs associated with the operation of the three programs. The costs are recovered from residential and business wireline access line end-users by a monthly surcharge on local service telephone bills.
(2) To permit the Commission to effectively monitor and evaluate the revenue and cost data associated with the Fund, each local exchange carrier (LEC) shall file an annual tracking report delineating monthly revenues collected and remittances for late payments for the preceding 12-month year and an annual access line summary report detailing its access line count as of December 31 of the preceding year. The tracking data are used for periodic audits of the Fund. The access line counts are used to calculate the next year's TRS surcharge.
(b) Timely remittance of revenues.
(1) LECs shall remit the TRS surcharge revenues to the Fund Administrator by the 20th of each month for revenues collected during the prior month.
(2) Delays or inaccuracies in remitting revenues to the Fund result in lost earnings by the Fund. An LEC that is late in remitting surcharge revenues shall remit an additional contribution to the Fund to make up for lost Fund earnings. The additional contribution must be based upon the published prime rate in effect at the time of the missed due date and cover the period beginning at the date of the occurrence of the failure to remit and continue until the surcharge revenues are properly remitted to the Fund.
(c) Filing of TRS reports.
(1) Annual tracking report. An LEC shall submit its annual tracking report to the Secretary's Bureau by March 31 of each year, in the format and detail specified on the Commission's web site (www.puc.state.pa.us).
(2) Annual access line summary report. An LEC shall submit its annual access line summary report to the Secretary's Bureau by March 1 of each year, in the format and detail specified on the Commission's web site.
(d) Failure to remit TRS revenues or to file TRS reports. An LEC that fails to timely and accurately submit a tracking report or an access line summary report or that fails to timely and accurately submit TRS surcharge revenues may need to reimburse the Fund under subsection (b). The Commission will utilize all available remedies to ensure reporting and remittance compliance including fines and the revocation of Certificates of Public Convenience.
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 08-830. Filed for public inspection May 2, 2008, 9:00 a.m.]
1 See http://www.puc.state.pa.us/telecom/telecom_relay_service.aspx for complete information on TRS. The traditional TRS program is also known as PA Relay.
2 The Annual Access Line Summary Report and the Annual Tracking Report forms may be downloaded from the Commission's web site at: http://www.puc.state.pa.us/general/onlineforms.aspx#TelecommunicationsForms.
3 The Policy Statement may be found online at http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/052/chapter69/s69.511.html; http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/052/chapter69/s69.512.html, and http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/052/chapter69/s69.513.html. It provides as follows:
§ 69.511. General.
(a) On May 24, 1990, at Docket M-900239, entitled ''Pennsylvania Telecommunications Relay Services,'' the Commission granted approval of the implementation of the Pennsylvania Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) for people with hearing or speech, or both, disabilities. A Relay Service Fund (Fund) was established to recover charges associated with the operation of the TRS. The Commission established a mechanism to adequately compensate the Fund through a monthly end-user billing surcharge, based on access lines, collected by Pennsylvania's Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) and Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs). These revenues are to be remitted on a monthly basis.
(b) To effectively monitor and evaluate the revenue data, the Commission established a tracking schedule for the filing of tracking reports. All ILECs and CLECs are required to file an Annual Tracking Report and an Annual Access Line Summary Report by April 30th. These reports require that the ILECs and CLECs break out the requisite data consistent with the current report forms. Further, the Annual Tracking Report requires that the data be broken out on a monthly basis beginning with April of the previous year and ending with March of the current year. The surcharge revenue collections data for each month includes the actual surcharge revenues collected from a company's end-users that month and remitted to the Fund by the 20th of the following month. The Commission directed the Bureau of Audits to conduct an annual audit of the TRS in its order dated September 3, 1992.
§ 69.512. Timely remittance of revenues.
(a) Under existing Commission Orders, Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) and Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) which collect revenues owed to the Relay Service Fund (Fund) are to remit these revenues to the Fund by the 20th of each month for revenues collected during the prior month. Delays in remitting revenues to the Fund result in lost earnings. The Commission intends to ensure that the Fund is properly funded through a reimbursement by the companies which fail to timely remit revenues.
(b) To properly reimburse the Fund, each company which is late in remitting surcharge revenues will be required to calculate for lost earnings based upon the base rate on corporate loans posted by at least 75436000f the Nation's 30 largest banks, also known as the ''prime rate,'' beginning at the date of the occurrence of the error and continue until the revenues are properly remitted to the Fund.
§ 69.513. Filing of Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) reports.
(a) Annual tracking report. Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) and Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) are currently required to submit an Annual Tracking Report to the Bureau of Fixed Utility Services by April 30th which delineates the monthly revenues collected based upon the number of each company's access lines. A company's failure to submit its Annual Tracking Report by April 30th impairs the Bureau of Audits' ability to complete the required annual audit of the Fund. The Annual Tracking Reports effectively include revenues actually collected during the prior 12-month period. The timely filing of the tracking reports is essential to avoid underfunding the Relay Service Fund (Fund) by the surcharge revenue and related investment income which the revenues would have earned.
(b) Annual Access Line Summary Report. ILECs and CLECs are currently required to submit an Annual Access Line Summary Report to the Bureau of Fixed Utility Services by April 30th detailing each company's access line count. A company's failure to submit its Annual Access Line Summary Report or to correctly report its access line information, impairs the ability of the Bureau of Fixed Utility Services to establish the proper TRS surcharge rates. The receipt of a timely and correct Annual Access Line Summary Report is essential to avoid underfunding the TRS Fund.
(c) An ILEC or CLEC which fails to timely remit an Annual Tracking Report may need to reimburse the Fund under § 69.512 (relating to timely remittance of revenues). The Commission may also utilize all available remedies to ensure reporting and remittance compliance including fines and the revocation of Certificates of Public Convenience.
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