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H.495

AN ACT RELATING TO NONDOMINANT AND SMALL ELIGIBLE TELECOMMUNICATIONS CARRIERS

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  30 V.S.A. § 227c is amended to read:

§ 227c.  NONDOMINANT AND SMALL ELIGIBLE

              TELECOMMUNICATIONS CARRIERS

(a)  The board may modify, reduce, or suspend the requirements under this title as applied to nondominant providers carriers of telecommunications service.  In determining whether a carrier or class of carriers is nondominant, the board shall consider whether the carriers have sufficient market power to set prices for the market.  The board may act by rule, or, after notice and opportunity for hearing, it may act by order.  The modifications, reductions, or suspensions may apply to one or more classes of nondominant providers carriers, and may apply differently to each class.  The board may modify, suspend, or reduce any or all of the regulatory requirements under sections 104, 105, 107, 108, 109, 225, 226, 227(a), 229, 230, 247, and 311 of this title.

(b)  In determining whether a carrier or class of carriers is nondominant, the board shall consider whether the carriers have sufficient market power to set prices for the market.  In determining whether to modify, reduce, or suspend regulatory requirements, the board shall consider whether competition in the market combined with the remaining requirements under this title:

(1)  will be sufficient to ensure that the charges, practices, classifications, or regulations related to the service are just and reasonable, and are not unjustly or unreasonably discriminatory; and

(2)  will afford the public at least as much protection as the applicable regulatory requirements being suspended or reduced.

(c)  Notwithstanding the board’s authority to modify, reduce, or suspend the requirements under this title, a carrier which serves fewer than ten percent of subscriber lines installed in the aggregate statewide and has been designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier in a service area where a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier has also been designated may, by providing written notice to the public service board and to the department of public service, elect to be exempted from one or more of the regulatory requirements under the sections listed in subsection (a) of this section.  For the purposes of this subsection, “eligible telecommunications carrier” means a telecommunications carrier designated eligible pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 214(e).

(d)  For any carrier that elects exemption under subsection (c) of this section:

(1)  the carrier shall provide notice of its election to its existing customers within 30 days of its election and to any new customer at the time the new customer requests service from the carrier; 

(2)  the carrier shall maintain the rate schedules that were required

prior to its election and shall provide notice to the board and the

department of public service, for informational purposes only, of any

change to such rate schedules.

(3)  the board shall have continuing regulatory authority over service quality standards, access to carriers of long distance telecommunications services, customer deposits, disconnection of residential and nonresidential services, billing practices and procedures, access to emergency services, access to operators’ services, access to directory services, and the nine supported services required under 47 U.S.C. § 214(e), as related to basic exchange telecommunications service.  For purposes of this subsection, “basic exchange telecommunications service” means the provision of publicly switched, voice grade interactive telecommunications services between or among two or more end users, where a single central office provides that service to those two or more end users;

(4)  the carrier shall not condition the purchase of basic exchange telecommunications service upon the purchase or subscription to bundles of or any combination of telecommunication services other than the one access line required for the provision of such service;

(5)  the carrier shall limit its prices as follows:

(A)  the carrier shall not increase its price for basic exchange telecommunications service during the first year following such election and, during the second and third years following such election, the carrier shall not increase its price for basic exchange telecommunications service by more than nine percent or by $1.50, whichever is less;

(B)  the carrier shall not increase its prices for local measured service during the first two years following such election;

(C)  the carrier shall not increase its price for nonbasic telecommunications services by more than nine percent during the first two years following such election, provided that, for the purposes of this section, nonbasic telecommunications services shall mean any optional telecommunications services other than basic exchange telecommunications services and local measured service that were included in the carrier’s intrastate tariff at the time of the election;

(D)  the carrier shall not increase its intrastate switched access rates for the three years following such election; and

(6)  the maximum prices established under subdivision (4) of this subsection may be exceeded only when it is necessary for the carrier to address an exogenous event.  As used in this subsection, the term “exogenous event” means an event beyond the control of the carrier which materially increases the costs or reduces the revenues of local exchange services in excess of ten percent in a single year, except if less than ten percent, then as may be approved by the board, and which is limited to:

(A)  changes in tax laws that are unique to the telecommunications industry;

(B)  changes in generally accepted accounting principles that apply specifically to telecommunications carriers or changes in the Federal Communications Commission’s Uniform System of Accounts;

(C)  changes in the Federal Communications Commission’s rules pertaining to jurisdictional separations;

(D)  regulatory, judicial, or legislative changes affecting telecommunications carriers, including, without limitation, rules and orders that are necessary to implement such changes, including, but not limited to, intercarrier compensation, universal service support, or revenue-neutral restructuring of a regulated intrastate telecommunications product or service; or

(E)  changes in inflation, changes in the economy, or the effects of competition that produce an increase in costs or a decrease in revenues in excess of 15 percent in a single year;

(7)  if the carrier responds to an exogenous event with a price increase that exceeds the maximum prices defined in subdivision (4) of this subsection, the carrier shall provide notice of such change to the public service board and to the public service department.  The board, upon its own motion, or upon the recommendation of the department, may initiate an investigation.  If the board does not initiate an investigation within a 30‑day period, the price increase shall take effect.  If the board determines to initiate an investigation, it shall give notice of that decision to the carrier and to the department and may suspend the portion of the price that exceeds the cap.  The board shall conclude its investigation within 120 days of issuance of its notice of investigation, or within such shorter period as it deems appropriate.  If the board fails to issue a decision within that 120‑day period, the price increase shall become effective upon the 121st day without retroactive rate adjustments; and

(8)  regulated intrastate telecommunications products or services that were not offered under the carrier’s rate schedules effective at the time of the election for exemption under subsection (c) of this section shall constitute new products and services and, as such, shall not be subject to the caps described in subdivision (4) of this subsection.  The carrier shall file rate schedules for new products and services and special contracts with the board and the department of public service, which shall take effect upon filing.  New products and services may include, without limitation:

(A)  services that were not technologically feasible prior to the carrier’s election;

(B)  any combination of new or existing products or services;

(C)  promotional offerings:

(D)  bundles of services, regardless of whether such bundles are comprised of regulated or unregulated services or a combination thereof; or

(E)  special contracts offered to individuals or groups of customers that are executed after the carrier elects the exemption provided under subsection (c) of this section.

(e)  Upon petition of by the department, the board shall, and upon its own initiative the board may, investigate whether it should impose or reimpose any regulatory requirements which it the board has modified, suspended, reduced under this section subsection (a) of this section, or the carrier has elected out of  pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.  If the board finds, after notice and an opportunity for hearing, and after considering the factors identified in subsection (c)(b) of this section, that the public is not sufficiently protected, the board may impose or reimpose any of the regulatory provisions that the board deems necessary listed in subsection (a) of this section.  Pending any final order, and subject to the provisions of section 12 of this title, the board may impose or reimpose any of the regulatory provisions listed in subsection (a) of this section on a temporary basis as it determines is just and reasonable.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us