VOLUME 9, NUMBER 4           FEBRUARY 2, 2001

To: Members

From: David Crothers, Executive Vice President

 

The Association was disappointed this week to learn legislation had been introduced to regulate the rates and services of telephone cooperatives and small commercial companies. The bill, SB 2410, makes telephone companies with more than 2,500 lines subject to Public Service Commission (PSC) jurisdiction to "originate, establish, modify, adjust, promulgate and enforce" rates. Telephone companies in North Dakota that exceed the 2,500 threshold will be forced to pay for expensive rate cases before the PSC and be required to file tariffs for all of their services.

The bill has been introduced in the Senate and been referred to the Industry, Business and Labor Committee for a hearing. We will continue to apprise members of the Association’s board and Legislative Committee, but also ask that directors and employees take an active role in ensuring the defeat of this onerous and burdensome legislation.

In addition, the legislation also provides for regulation of rural electric cooperatives who serve more than 2,500 lines.

Two hearings have been scheduled for next week: HB 1182, in which the university system in North Dakota seeks to have itself exempted from telecommunications law and, HB 1473, a bill that requires internet service providers to display a window on the screen whenever a toll charge applies to the connection.

The Association participated in discussions last week with members of the higher education community, including the Chancellor, over their proposal to exempt institutions of higher learning from telecommunications regulation. We expressed our concern over the broad scope of their proposal and have countered with language that more narrowly focuses their ability to provide telecommunications services. To date, their representatives have not replied to our language. The committee hearing is scheduled for Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. 

The second bill, HB 1473, was discussed at length this week by members of the Association’s Legislative Committee, who strongly oppose the measure. Members of the committee correctly point out that any such requirement would be extremely difficult to implement and, in some cases, technically impossible. We have scheduled a representative from SRT Communications to testify against HB 1473 next Friday and have been working closely with other internet service providers to coordinate testimony.

Finally, as you will note, the Legislative Report has been expanded to accommodate several new bills that were introduced this week. We have been meeting with sponsors of the legislation, as well as state agencies to determine their impact on our member telephone companies and will report in further detail next week.

If you have questions regarding any legislative issue or other matter of concern, please contact me.

 

 

HB 1008The Public Service Commission’s appropriation bill for the biennium beginning July 1, 2001 and ending June 30, 2003. The Commission is requesting an appropriation of $9,732,463 for the two year cycle, but anticipates taking in $5,842,274 in revenue.

Jan. 9    Introduced in House.
Jan. 15  Appropriations Committee Meeting.

 

HB 1090 A bill introduced at the request of the Public Service Commission that clarifies the obligation of telecommunications companies to pay a filing fee when a new price schedule or tariff is submitted to the agency. New language is added to the “Exemption-Rate Regulation” section of the State code stating that telcos do not have to pay any fees when updating or introducing a new tariff.

Jan. 9     Introduced in House. 
Jan. 17   Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 14-0.
Jan. 19   House Passed 90-0.
Jan. 22   Introduced in Senate.  Referred to Industry, Business and Labor Committee.

 

HB 1093 A bill that makes North Dakota’s prohibition against "Slamming" and "Cramming" identical to rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission. The new language is HB 1093 merely changes dates to account for modifications made by the FCC since the North Dakota statute was adopted during the last legislative session. Slamming and Cramming statutes outlaw the unauthorized changes in telecommunications providers and services, respectively.

Jan. 9    Introduced  in House.  
Jan. 17  Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 14-0.
Jan. 19  House Passed 89-0.
Jan. 22  Introduced in Senate. Referred to Industry, Business and Labor Committee.

 

HB 1182 A bill introduced by the State Board of Higher Education that seeks to have services provided by colleges and universities exempted from telecommunications regulation. The University of North Dakota and North Dakota State currently are the sole telecommunications providers on their properties. They provide all telecommunications within their buildings and to students in the dormitories. Opposition to the bill is forming because the University System is increasingly mandating that private enterprise who have a presence on the campus are required to get their telecommunications service from the university. In addition, NDSU has purchased land off-campus and constructed a retail complex which will be served by the school’s telecommunications company. Association Position Papers

Jan. 9  Introduced in House. 
Feb. 5 Education Committee Hearing - 9:00 a.m.

 

HB 1214 A bill that requires interexchange carriers to notify customers of unusually high long distance usage on that customer’s account. The legislation, sponsored by Representative Byron Clark (R-Fargo) and Senator Tim Flakoll (R-Fargo), requires each interexchange company to develop a policy that defines “high usage” and to notify the customer by written notice if that standard has been met. It would also require the local carrier to provide notice to the customer if the local carrier was notified by the interexchange carrier. Association Position Papers

Jan. 11  Introduced in House. 
Jan. 22  Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended "Do Not Pass" 10-4.
Jan. 25  House Defeated 73-24.

 

HB 1253 A bill requiring cable operators offering internet service to open their networks to competitors for transport. The legislation requires those cable television providers to open their networks for resellers. The bill also makes those companies, including cable operators, who transport information to and from the Internet subject to the interconnection requirements found in Section 251 of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Jan. 15 Introduced in House. Referred to Industry, Business and Labor Committee.

 

HB 1357 A bill to extend the State’s provision of service to the cities of North Dakota. It expands the Information Technology Department’s list of customers for wide area network services to include all of the State’s communities.  Rep. Pam Gulleson, a sponsor of the legislation, testified this bill was to ensure that all cities in the State receive access to the network. Currently, the State intends to make its services available to 194 of the State’s 361 incorporated cities by the end of the year.

Jan. 19   Introduced in House. 
Feb.  2   Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing.

 

HB 1446 A bill that would require each telcom company providing intrastate long distance to a presubscribed customer to provide at least one day notice before there is any price increase or if there is a change in the terms and conditions of service.

Jan. 22     Introduced in House. Referred to Industry, Business and Labor Committee.

 

HB 1473 A bill which requires internet service providers to display an on-screen warning if a toll charge will apply to the connection between the subscriber and internet service provider. The Association is contacting our member ISP’s, the computer industry and others to determine whether it is feasible.

Jan. 22     Introduced in House.
Feb. 9      Political Subdivisions Committee Hearing - 9:00 a.m.

 

HCR 3012 A resolution that asks Congress to reject any attempts to extend the Internet Tax Freedom Act. In 1998, President Clinton signed the measure that bans the imposition of any State and local tax on Internet access or electronic commerce transactions. Although there have been several bills introduced in Congress to make the moratorium on tax collections permanent, the resolution states that it will have a detrimental affect and pose grave financial risks for State and local governments as more transactions are completed over the Internet.

Jan. 22  Introduced in House.
Feb. 7   Finance and Taxation Committee Hearing - 10:00 a.m.

 

SB 2022 The Information Technology Department’s appropriation bill. The Department is requesting a budget of $107,021,019, but anticipates income of just over $71 million. The general fund appropriation is $35,835,932.

Jan. 9     Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 15   Appropriations Committee Hearing.

 

SB 2043 A bill revising the obligations of the Information Technology Department which clarifies their obligation to approve projects by entities under control of the State board of higher education, slightly alters the membership and renames the Statewide wide area network advisory committee, allows the Department to finance the purchase of equipment and streamlines the agency’s business reports.

Jan. 9     Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 12  Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing.

 

SB 2067 A bill to extend the E 911 tax currently paid by wireline customers to subscribers of wireless devices. Former Governor Ed Schafer vetoed a similar bill at the conclusion of the last legislative session, but during the interim appointed a Task Force to hammer out language to extend the tax to wireless customers. The Task Force used the existing statute for the basis of extending the E 911 surcharge to wireless, but there are distinct sections in the bill for wireless and wireline, including segregated funds for compensating the providers. In the Association’s judgment a better option would be a single, unified fund with the Public Service Answering Points (PSAP’s) and counties as the focal point, but compromise on the issue was difficult to achieve. Association Position Papers

Jan. 9   Introduced in Senate. 
Jan. 31 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 5-1.
Feb. 1  Senate Passed 44-5.

 

SB 2227 A bill to amend the existing North Dakota One Call statute by clarifying the liability of excavators who damage facilities. It has been described by proponents as restoring the liability language that existed prior to the adoption of the one call statute. The new language more closely resembles “strict liability” for those who fail to follow the law and, subsequently, damage facilities. Association Position Papers

Jan. 16  Introduced in House.
Feb. 1   Political Subdivisions Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 8-0.

 

SB 2410 A bill to abolish the telephone cooperative exemption and to subject all telephone companies with more than 2,500 local exchange subscribers to Public Service Commission jurisdiction. It would give the PSC the authority to originate, establish, modify, adjust, promulgate and enforce tariffs, rates, joint rates and charge of all telecommunications companies with more than 2,500 subscribers. The legislation also extends the same PSC oversight and requirements to rural electric cooperatives.

Jan. 29 Introduced in Senate. Referred to Industry, Business and Labor Committee.

 

SB 2423 A bill that modifies the call-before-you-dig law in North Dakota and would allow a operator with underground facilities to not mark an area if they notify an excavator that their facilities are mapped on a geographical information system and that the excavation will not disturb their facilities. The facilities owner must also provide the excavator with the name and address of the entity with the geographical information system. The Association is somewhat concerned with the wording of this bill because the One-Call statute has no provision for direct contact between the facilities-owner and the excavator. All communications, absent emergencies, are between the two entities and the one-call center.

Jan. 29 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 8   Political Subdivisions Committee Hearing - 10:45 a.m.

 

SB 2437 A bill that creates a statewide database that consumers may register with if they do not want telemarketing calls. The Public Service Commission would establish and operate a database of telephone numbers of residential customers who object to receiving telephone solicitations. The legislation also specifies rules for telemarketers soliciting individuals, fees for participating in the system and penalties for violating provisions of the Act.

Jan. 29 Introduced in Senate. Referred to Industry, Business and Labor Committee.
Feb. 6   Industry, Business and Labor Committee Hearing - 8:30 a.m.

 

SCR 4008 A resolution introduced at the urging of Qwest that expresses the Legislature’s support for Qwest to be allowed Section 271 relief, which would allow them to provide interLATA and interstate services. Currently, they are prohibited from carrying calls across the LATA line dividing North Dakota and from carrying calls out-of-State. Qwest says that consumer choice and the number of voice and data providers are limited in the State as evidence the resolution should be supported. The resolution further urges Qwest to submit an application for approval to the FCC by December 31, 2001. Association Position Papers

Jan. 12 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 30 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Pass", as amended, 7-0.
Feb. 1  Senate Passed by Voice Vote.