Since the 1970s, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has established minimum quality of service standards for certain utility telephone companies. However, the CPUC recently adopted a Ordinance establishing the regulations (OIR) to consider extending its QoS rules to apply to:
- (1) interconnected voice over IP (VoIP) providers, whether facilities-based or over-the-top services;
- (2) Wireless service providers — both facilities-based and resellers; and
- (3) Broadband service providers (in a later stage of the procedure).
The regulations, which have just begun, could have major implications for a wide range of communications and information service providers in California.
Through its General Order (GO) 133-D, the CPUC enforces an extensive set of rules that have been applied primarily to traditional plain-telephone service (POTS) providers for the past 50+ years. GO 133-D establishes minimum standards for the following metrics:
- Installation intervals measuring the time that elapses between a customer’s request for basic telephone service and the establishment of that service. Five business days is the norm.
- Installation commitments determining whether basic telephone service is established for residential and small business customers. Meeting 95% of commitments is the norm.
- Customer problem reports detailing service dissatisfaction and out-of-service issues.
- Out-of-service repair intervals measuring the average time between a carrier receiving an out-of-service problem report and when service is restored for residential and small business customers. 90% resolution of all out-of-service problem reports is standard.
- Response time measuring the time the operator has to respond to calls for outage reports, general inquiries and billing specific inquiries. The standard service level is 80% of calls answered within 60 seconds.
In addition, providers are required to file quarterly reports on these metrics, as well as notices of major service disruptions. When service providers fail to comply with these requirements, GO 133-D’s enforcement mechanism allows CPUC Communications Division staff to fine violators several thousand dollars a day, or to accept a corrective action proposal in which the offender agrees to invest at least twice the amount of the fine to improve the quality of the service in a measurable way in lieu of paying a fine.
In November 2021, the California Public Advocates Office (Cal Advocates) filed Petition 21-10-003 request the CPUC to initiate regulation to establish minimum quality of service standards for essential communication services, i.e. broadband, wireless and VoIP, in addition to POTS.
On March 23, 2022, the CPUC opened the regulation, R.22-03-016to review changes to GO 133-D relevant to the current regulatory and market environment, including the extension of minimum QoS requirements to VoIP, wireless and broadband services.
Although the OIR declines to adopt any of the specific proposals in the Cal Advocates petition, it finds that Californians are increasingly relying on technologies other than traditionally regulated POTS, warranting new rules protecting consumers using these other technologies. This further justifies opening the OIR based on a recent AT&T/Frontier”Network Review“study in R.11-12-001 which revealed, among other things, inadequate network performance and inequitable network investments from 2018-2019.
Therefore, QoS standards developed as part of rulemaking could meet a wide range of requirements, including but not limited to the current GO 133-D rules explained above. . Additionally, the CPUC will consider changes to the enforcement mechanism of GO 133-D, particularly in light of the CPUC’s recent findings that the existing sanctions framework has been ineffective in addressing service quality deficiencies.
However, the full universe of what could be addressed in this regulation is under development. The CPUC will issue a later ruling detailing a timeline and likely a longer and more specific list of issues that will be covered by the proceeding.
For the time being, the RIO envisages two phases on which to examine the following questions:
- Phase 1 will examine which new or existing QoS metrics and reports should be extended to wireless and Interconnected VoIP services and possible changes to the application framework of GO 133-D.
- Phase 2 will consider whether the CPUC should adopt service quality standards, reporting requirements, and an enforcement framework for “broadband services.”
The OIR also sets the following procedural deadlines:
- The parties have up to April 12, 2022to request to be on the duty roster for this procedure.
- Opening comments on the OIR are due May 9, 2022.
- Replies to comments on the RIO are due May 23, 2022.
Please contact DWT if you have any questions about the RIO or would like to discuss possible participation in the regulatory proceeding.