SHB 2679 -
By Representative Morris
Strike everything after the enacting clause and insert the following:
"Sec. 1 2013 2nd sp. s. c 8 s 201 (uncodified) is amended to read
(1) The legislature finds that:
(a) The benefit that all consumers and communications providers derive from connection to the legacy public telephone network is enhanced by a universal service program that enables as many consumers to be connected to the public network as possible; and
(b) Consumers in all areas of the state should continue to have access to communications services at reasonable rates.
(2) The state has long relied on incumbent local exchange carriers to provide a ubiquitous incumbent public network as carriers of last resort. Significant changes are occurring in the communications marketplace, including: (a) The migration from customer reliance on access lines for voice service to the use of broadband for a number of communications applications; and (b) changes in federal regulations governing: How communications providers compensate other providers for the use of the network; and eligibility for federal universal service funds. These changes are adversely affecting the ability of some communications providers to continue to offer communications services in rural areas of the state of Washington at rates that are comparable to those prevailing in urban areas. These changes, absent explicit federal and state universal service support for such communications providers, may lead, in the short term, to unreasonable telephone service rate increases or cessation of service for some Washington consumers. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the state to ensure that incumbent local exchange carriers are able to continue to provide services as the carrier of last resort.
(3) The changes in the communications marketplace result in a revenue shortfall of greater than five million dollars for rural incumbent local exchange carriers in this state.
(4) As a result of the foregoing and to enable all consumers in Washington to access and benefit from a ubiquitous public network, the legislature intends to create a targeted and temporary universal service program that supports the legacy public telephone network of Washington's smaller incumbent communications providers and ensures access to the network during this transition to broadband services, is operated in a transparent manner pursuant to rules adopted by the utilities and transportation commission, and advances universal service in a manner not inconsistent with the requirements of 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254, the federal telecommunications act of 1996.
Sec. 2 RCW 80.36.650 and 2013 2nd sp.s. c 8 s 203 are each
amended to read as follows:
(1) A state universal communications services program is established. The program is established to protect public safety and welfare under the authority of the state to regulate telecommunications under Article XII, section 19 of the state Constitution. The purpose of the program is to support continued provision of basic telecommunications services under rates, terms, and conditions established by the commission during the time over which incumbent communications providers in the state are adapting to changes in federal universal service fund and intercarrier compensation support.
(2) Under the program, eligible communications providers may receive distributions from the universal communications services account created in RCW 80.36.690 in exchange for the affirmative agreement to provide continued services under the rates, terms, and conditions established by the commission under this chapter for the period covered by the distribution. The commission must implement and administer the program under terms and conditions established in RCW 80.36.630 through 80.36.690. Expenditures for the program ((
exceed)) must be five million dollars per fiscal year, less the
administrative costs appropriated to the commission to administer the
program established in subsection (1) of this section in the omnibus
operating appropriations act.
(3) A communications provider is eligible to receive distributions from the account if:
(a) The communications provider is: (i) An incumbent local exchange carrier serving fewer than forty thousand access lines in the state; or (ii) a radio communications service company providing wireless two-way voice communications service to less than the equivalent of forty thousand access lines in the state. For purposes of determining the access line threshold in this subsection, the access lines or equivalents of all affiliates must be counted as a single threshold, if the lines or equivalents are located in Washington;
(b) The customers of the communications provider are at risk of rate instability or service interruptions or cessations absent a distribution to the provider that will allow the provider to maintain rates reasonably close to the benchmark; and
(c) The communications provider meets any other requirements established by the commission pertaining to the provision of communications services, including basic telecommunications services.
(4)(a) Distributions to eligible communications providers are based on a benchmark established by the commission. The benchmark is the rate the commission determines to be a reasonable amount customers should pay for basic residential service provided over the incumbent public network. However, if an incumbent local exchange carrier is charging rates above the benchmark for the basic residential service, that provider may not seek distributions from the fund for the purpose of reducing those rates to the benchmark.
(b) To receive a distribution under the program, an eligible communications provider must affirmatively consent to continue providing communications services to its customers under rates, terms, and conditions established by the commission pursuant to this chapter for the period covered by the distribution.
(5) The program is funded from amounts deposited by the legislature in the universal communications services account established in RCW 80.36.690. The commission must operate the program within amounts appropriated for this purpose and deposited in the account.
(6) The commission must periodically review the accounts and records of any communications provider that receives distributions under the program to ensure compliance with the program and monitor the providers' use of the funds.
(7) The commission must establish an advisory board, consisting of a reasonable balance of representatives from different types of communications providers and consumers, to advise the commission on any rules and policies governing the operation of the program.
(8) The program terminates on June 30, 2019, and no distributions may be made after that date.
(9) This section expires July 1, 2020."
Correct the title.
EFFECT: Makes the following changes to the substitute house bill:
Changes language in the intent section.
Removes the requirement that the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) distribute funds pursuant to a recommendation by the UTC Universal Communications Services Program Advisory board.