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MPUC Holds Expert Witness Hearings on Rural Telephone Companies Case: April 6-9th Hallowell
April 5, 2010
Augusta, Maine—The Maine Public Utilities Commission has scheduled expert witness hearings for April 6th-9th for a series of docketed cases regarding a Petition filed by County Roads Communications (CRC). The Petition requests that the Commission require five local rural phone companies to negotiate with CRC for phone service interconnection. This interconnection would enable Time Warner—a partner with CRC in this effort-- to provide digital phone service in the geographic territories currently served exclusively by the rural telephone companies.
The federal 1996 Telecommunications Act (TelAct) generally requires local telephone companies to negotiate agreements for interconnection and for access to certain portions of their networks to other carriers--in order to foster competition in the local telephone exchange market. However, the TelAct also contains an exception which relieves rural telephone companies from certain of these interconnection obligations. The central question raised by these docketed cases is whether the Commission should lift this so-called “rural exemption” which would then require interconnection negotiation and would enable CRC/Time Warner to compete for telephone customers in these territories.
Commission Chair Sharon Reishus stated, “The Commission must examine several factors -- the technical feasibility of the requested interconnection, the economic burdens possibly placed on the rural telephone companies by lifting the exemption, and, consistency with the state goal of quality phone service at just, reasonable, and affordable rates for all Mainers (as well as access to advanced telecommunications and information services).”
The hearings will be held at the Commission’s offices at 101 Second Street in Hallowell starting at 9 am each day. The hearings are open to the public although they are not a forum for public input. The hearings will be streamed from the Commission website. At the hearings, expert witnesses for the parties in the case will be cross-examined on their previously-filed testimony, and will respond to questions from Commissioners and staff and other parties. Certain portions of the hearings will address competitively sensitive, and therefore confidential, information; for those periods, the proceedings will be closed to the public.
The rural phone companies which are parties to this case are Oxford Telephone Company, Oxford West Telephone Company, Unitel, Inc., Lincolnville Telephone Company, and Tidewater Telecom, Inc.
CRC/Time Warner—desiring to compete to provide phone services in rural areas-- first filed for interconnection rights with these rural phone companies in 2007. During a subsequent proceeding conducted in 2008, the Commission declined to remove the interconnection exemption for the rural telephone companies. The Commission found that CRC/Time Warner had not provided sufficient information to demonstrate that no undue economic harm would result if the rural exemption were lifted. The current proceeding is a result of CRC/TWC filing its request for a decision on the lifting of this rural exemption for a second time with the Commission.
The Commission regulates telephone service in Maine which includes the following kinds of telephone companies: incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) with long-established monopoly service territories, inter-exchange carriers (IXCs) which provide in-state or interstate long-distance services, and competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) which provide competitive local exchange service. The phone companies in this case are all ILECs and are regulated by the Commission. Though many telephone carriers also provide broadband service which delivers high-speed internet, these services are not regulated by the Commission.
For more information: For an agenda of the hearings please call or email Evelyn deFrees. For further background, visit the Commission’s virtual case file through the website, www.maine.gov/mpuc and search for Docket Numbers: 2009-40-44 (one docketed case for each of the five rural phone companies in this proceeding).
Contact: Evelyn deFrees, 207-287-6141 firstname.lastname@example.org
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