VOLUME 10, NUMBER 7               FEBRUARY 15 , 2003


To: Members

From: David Crothers, Executive Vice President

The Legislature will enter its final week of work prior to "crossover" next week before taking a two day break on February 24th and 25th. "Crossover" signifies the time when all bills must be voted upon in their house of origin. For example, all pieces of legislation introduced in the House must be voted on by members of the House of Representatives by Friday. All bills introduced in the Senate must be voted on by members of that body by the end of the week, as well. By Tuesday of this week, all pieces of legislation must be reported out of their committee in their house of origin.

Next week will also mark the first time that pieces of legislation that were passed in their house of origin will be heard by committees in the other body. As you have noted in the Legislative Report during the last several weeks, a number of bills have been introduced and referred to committee in the other house, but none have been scheduled for hearing. That changes next week with the Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee taking up four telecommunications- related bills.

First, House Bill 1132, the measure that will require resellers of telecommunications services to acquire annual licenses to do business in the State of North Dakota will be heard by the IB&L Committee. Members of the Public Service Commission and staff have testified the measure is necessary to monitor which companies are doing business with North Dakota residents. When the Commission approved their certificate to offer service in the State there was no requirement that they file annually. However, there is another State law that requires everyone who does business in the State to acquire an annual license from the Secretary of State's office. The information the Public Service Commission is looking for is in another State office. A companion bill that required a $100 filing fee to accompany each annual filing was defeated by the House of Representatives.

Second, the IB&L Committee will hear House Bill 1134, which gives customers in North Dakota the right to purchase "essential telecommunications services" separately from other telecom services is being amended to make that requirement applicable to only those that provide a full array of services. A problem arose because many telecom providers do not provide essential telecom services. They only offer data services and have no interest in providing service to the public.

Third, the same committee will take testimony on House Bill 1135, a measure that extends the authority of the Public Service Commission to resolve some numbering issues and to better tailor State orders to implement the Federal Act. The Association originally opposed this measure because of its broad authority, but has worked with the House committee, the Public Service Commission and others to limit that jurisdiction. The Association has concurred with the amendments that will allow the PSC to promulgate rules that are different than those adopted by the Federal Communications Commission, but language that allowed the Commission to adopt rules "greater" than the Federal rules has been amended out of the legislation.

Finally, that committee will hear the Public Service Commission's testimony on House Bill 1052, the legislation known as Qwest's Performance Assurance Plan (QPAP). The bill provides a fund within State government to monitor the Bell company's performance in maintaining an open network for competitors in exchange for their ability to offer interLATA long distance.

Also this week, Senator Randy Christmann (R.-Hazen) and Representative Craig Headland (R.-Montpelier) testified in favor of Senate Bill 2400, their legislation to ensure that telecommunications companies are treated fairly when a piece of property in which the company has an easement is foreclosed upon, during a Senate Finance and Taxation Committee hearing. Both gentlemen, directors at North Dakota telephone cooperatives, did a terrific job and their bill received a 6-0 "Do Pass" recommendation.

If you have questions regarding any of the telecommunications legislation included in this report or thoughts on our approach to an issue, please contact me.


HB 1022 The legislation provides for the Information Technology Department's two-year appropriation, as well as allowing the State to sell $20 million in bonds to fund ConnectND. The Information Technology Department is requesting $108.1 million for the biennium and anticipates recovering $97.6 million in revenues.

Jan. 7 Introduced in House.
Jan. 7 Appropriations Committee Hearing.
Jan. 16 Appropriations Committee Hearing.


HB 1043 The bill seeks to resolve a number of issues for administering the Information Technology Department (ITD) regarding the date State agencies must submit their "technology plans" to ITD, eliminates obsolete microfilm units and eliminates the State Information Technology Advisory Committee. The Committee's role is to advise ITD regarding statewide information technology planning, including providing electronic government services for citizens and businesses, developing technology infrastructure to support economic development and workforce training, and developing other statewide information. This bill also expands the authority of ITD to purchase, finance or lease "implementation services" to carry out their mission.

Jan. 7 Introduced in House. Referred to Government and Veterans Affairs Committee.
Feb. 6 Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing.


HB 1052 The proposal reflects the agreement between Qwest and the Public Service Commission to monitor the telephone company's compliance obligations in providing interstate long distance services. Before Qwest was allowed to provide those long distance services they demonstrated to the Public Service Commission their compliance with a 14 point checklist determined by the Federal Communications Commission. This legislation established a Performance Assurance Plan, which will be used by the Public Service Commission to monitor the operation and effect of Qwest's entry into the interstate market.

Jan. 7 Introduced in House.
Jan. 9 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 14-0.
Jan. 10 House Passed 89-1. Emergency Claused Carried.


HB 1053 The proposal sought to continue the life of the Regulatory Reform Review Commission (RRRC) through December 31, 2004. The RRRC's authority to exist ended on the last day of December 2002 and needed to be reinstated by the legislative body. The 5 person Commission is designed to review ongoing telecommunications developments, both legislative and regulatory, and report back to the full legislature with recommendations for preserving and advancing telecommunications services for the State's citizens.

Jan. 7 Introduced in House.
Jan. 13 Industry Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Not Pass" 14-0
Jan. 14 House Defeated 89-1


HB 1105 Legislation introduced at the request of the Tax Commissioner to amend and clarify telecommunications taxation laws. Among the changes is language to include mobile wireless carriers in the tax statute, refund
procedures for telephone companies and customers, and gives the Tax Commissioner discretion to waive penalties.

Jan. 7 Introduced in House.
Jan. 14 Finance and Tax Committee Recommended "Do Not Pass" 13-0
Jan. 15 House Passed 91-0
Feb. 11 Introduced in Senate. Referred to Finance and Committee.


HB 1132 A bill that would require resellers of telecommunications services to acquire an annual license each year before they would be allowed to do business in the State of North Dakota. Public Service Commissioners Wefald and Clark testified that the measure was necessary to monitor which resellers were still offering service in the State.
Association Position Paper

Jan. 7 Introduced in House.
Jan. 14 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 12-1.
Jan. 23 House Passed 66-24
Feb. 11 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 17 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Hearing - 9:00 am.


HB 1133 Legislation introduced at the request of the Public Service Commission that would require each telecommunications company, electric utility, gas utility and pipeline utility to pay the PSC a $100 fee annually. The PSC estimates 650 utilities would be subject to the measure. The Association testified against the proposal and told committee members that there should be some demonstration of need for the money. The bill, as written, would require the monies to be deposited in the States general fund. Association Position Paper

Jan. 7 Introduced in House.
Jan. 14 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 11-2.
Jan. 23 House Defeated 54-37.


HB 1134 In North Dakota, it is law that customers have the right to purchase "essential telecommunications services" separate from other telecom services that a telephone company offers. Under this proposal, only
telephone companies that "provides essential telecommunications services" must be required to offer essential services only. It was introduced because there are a number of telecommunications carriers
operating in the state who do not offer essential services to the public and should not be required to unbundle those services.

Jan. 7 Introduced in House.
Jan. 14 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 14-0.
Jan. 23 House Passed 87-0.
Feb. 11 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 17 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Hearing - 9:00 am.


HB 1135 The Public Service Commission in this bill is requesting the authority to resolve numbering issues such as the recent implementation of 211 (Mental Health), 511 (State Transportation) and future N11 assignments, as well as jurisdiction over future area codes. Separately, the Commission also seeks to have language dropped that limits their authority to impose obligations on telephone companies that are greater or different than Federal obligations. The Association has joined Qwest in opposition to the Commission's attempt to expand the scope of their rulemaking. Association Position Paper

Jan. 7 Introduced in House.
Jan. 28 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Pass", As amended, 14-0.
Jan. 30 House Passed 88-1.
Feb. 11 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 17 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Hearing - 9:00 am.


HB 1284 Legislation that would prohibit telecommunications companies from selling or disclosing information, including any profiling information, about their customers. Telecommunications companies that violate the proposed law would be subject to both criminal and civil prosecution. The Association has expressed its concern that this would prohibit actions as simple as selling customer names, addresses and telephone numbers to competing telephone directory companies. The Association urged Industry, Business and Labor committee members to oppose the measure during a hearing on HB 1284 and testified that Federal law in many instances dictated our disclosure of customer information.

Jan. 13 Introduced in House.
Feb. 6 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Not Pass" 14-0.
Feb. 10 House Defeated 93-1.

HB 1314 A bill to expand the North Dakota One Call ( Call Before You Dig) law to exempt excavations down to a depth of 24 inches. Under the current law, a excavator can only dig to 18 inches before calling North Dakota One Call. Additionally, sponsors of the bill have also added language that would allow excavations down to a depth of 18 inches in the right- of-way of a road or highway. The Association believes that sponsors of the bill are responding to the requests of soil testers operating in the State who take many, many samples from a single field. Committee Chairman Glen Froseth (R-Kenmare) appointed a subcommittee of legislators, soil samplers and utilities at the conclusion of the hearing and asked them to try and resolve their differences. The Association will participate in those meetings.

Jan. 13 Introduced in House.
Feb. 5 Political Subdivisions Committee Recommended "Do Not Pass" 14-0.
Feb. 7 House Defeated 58-33.


HB 1363 Legislation that will reduce the amount of time that the Public Service Commission may suspend a utility's price increase or decrease from seven months to five months. Under existing law, whenever a company files a contract, price change, contract or new rule with the Commission the agency has the ability to "suspend" that action for up to seven months after the change was to take effect. This bill will reduce the time frame to five months.

Jan. 16 Introduced in House.
Jan. 30 Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Recommended "Do Pass", As Amended, 13-1.
Feb. 5 House Passed 94-0.


HB 1364 A bill that would extend the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission to include cable television lines and other wires that are attached to poles to the definition of "communication lines". Currently, the statute gives the Commission authority to regulate raising and lowering electric and communications lines on the poles.

Jan. 16 Introduced in House.
Jan. 30 Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 13-0.
Feb. 10 House Passed 93-0.


HB 1388 A proposal that will limit the amount of customer information that a Internet Service Provider (ISP) may transmit when a customer uses its facilities and establishes rules that will regulate the sending of "commercial electronic mail messages", which are sometimes known as "spam". It is a two-prong bill that affects Internet privacy and unsolicited email. The first section of the bill prohibits a Internet Service Provider from disclosing a customer's "personally identifiable information", which is information that identifies a consumer's physical or electronic address or telephone number; a consumer who has requested goods or services from a ISP (customer profile); any online sites visited by a consumer; or any information from the consumer's data storage device. The second section of the legislation prohibits false or misleading information in the subject line of commercial emails and requires those that transmit commercial emails to provide an toll-free number, valid email address or other electronic method for allowing customers to notify the sender that they do not want to receive commercial messages. Those that transmit commercial email after being notified by the customer that transmissions should stop are subject to fines of $2,000 per occurrence or $35,000 per day. Unlike "Do Not Call" lists, which will provide a central database for customers to register and all telemarketers will have to review before making calls, this legislation will require customers to notify each sender of commercial messages individually.

Jan. 20 Introduced in House.
Feb. 13 Judiciary Committee Recommended "Do Pass", As Amended, 11-2.


SB 2008 The two-year appropriation for the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC). The Commission is asking for $10.1 million and anticipates income of $6.1 million during the biennium.

Jan. 7 Introduced in House.
Jan. 20 Appropriations Committee Hearing.
Jan. 24 Appropriations Committee Hearing.
Feb. 11 Appropriations Committee Hearing.


SB 2042 A bill introduced at the request of the Information Technology Department (ITD) that will allow school districts or institutions of higher learning to allow members of the public to use State facilities for "videoconferencing or associated network services" when a private provider is unavailable and allowing the access "does not inhibit future private provider service." The Association testified against the proposal and said it was bad public policy for government to compete against private enterprise. The infrastructure to support videoconferencing is widely available throughout rural North Dakota, but requires expensive special equipment. The Association has argued that "Price" should not be a determining factor or whether the State should compete with private providers of the same service. It is unfair competition. The government does not pay taxes and the State's residents subsidize the offering. Association Position Paper

Jan. 7 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 17 Education Committee Recommended "Do Not Pass" 4-2.
Jan. 20 Rereferred to Education Committee.
Jan. 29 Education Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 6-0.
Jan. 30 Senate Passed 47-0.
Feb. 3 Introduced in House. Referred to Education Committee.


SB 2064 A State Radio proposal that requires fees collected under the 911 wireless provisions of State law to be charged and paid to the political subdivisions that enter into contracts with State Radio. Current statutes allow counties with fewer than 20,000 residents to receive their 911 service from State Radio. Today, there are 23 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP's) in the State. An additional 22 counties have their calls answered by State Radio. A representative from the Association of Counties testified that Phase I, which will give the wireless telephone
number and location of the tower, is to be operational by mid-summer 2003.

Jan. 7 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 15 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 7-0.
Jan. 21 Referred to Appropriations Committee.
Jan. 28 Appropriations Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 14-0.
Jan. 29 Senate Passed 47-0.
Feb. 3 Introduced in House. Referred to Industry, Business and Labor Committee.


SB 2116 Legislation introduced at the request of the Public Service Commission (PSC) that would require local telecommunications companies, as well as providers of intrastate telecommunications services to provide a notice to customers any time there is a price increase. Local telcos would be required to give notice at least fifteen days beforehand if there is an increase of more than 1 percent for essential local exchange service, as well as a 1 day notice if there is in increase of more than 5 percent for any nonessential local exchange service. Providers of intrastate service would be required to give any presubscribed customer a 1 day notice if there was a change in the terms or conditions of that service that results in a price increase. The Association testified against the measure and told members of the committee that local telephone companies and North Dakota Long Distance has an outstanding record of notifying customers of changes in their telephone bills.
Associaton Position Papers

Jan. 7 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 21 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Not Pass" 6-1.
Jan. 22 Senate Defeated 35-12.


SB 2117 This proposal is captioned as modifying the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission to assess costs to public utilities for their rate hearings, but the language limits the PSC authority to rate proceedings affecting gas or electric public utilities. It is not applicable to the telephone industry at this time, but the Association will monitor to ensure that the concept is not expanded.

Jan. 7 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 21 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Not Pass" 5-2.
Jan. 22 Senate Defeated 47-0.


SB 2192 Legislation that extends the immunity from liability that telephone providers receive when providing access to emergency systems to include automated notification systems. Those systems are identified as, "a telecommunications system that provides rapid notice of emergency situations to the public through a public safety answering point." The immunity is also extended to public agencies, public safety agencies and wireless providers, as well as employees and agents of those entities. The immunity does not exist in instances of willful misconduct or gross negligence.

Jan. 13 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 3 Judiciary Committee Recommended Amended, 6-0.
Feb. 4 Senate Passed 46-0.
Feb. 12 Introduced in House. Referred to Judiciary.


SB 2231 Legislation introduced at the request of Qwest that eliminates the Essential Telecommunications Price Factor (ETPF) formula used by Qwest and other price cap companies to determine the amount of increases permissible by law. It applies to both local and intrastate toll access rates. The ETPF factor is determined annually by the Public Service Commission. While the PSC does not regulate the rates of cooperatives and independents with fewer than 8,000 lines, the agency does regulate those companies' access rates. The conventional wisdom is that the ETPF, which was adopted by the State of North Dakota in 1989, had become less and less relevant in an era of reduced access rates and deregulation of the industry. It also proved to not be a very significant factor and resulted in minuscule increases or decreases each year. Testimony in the Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee instead focused on two other provisions of the legislation, including the appropriate demarcation line between customer and telecommunications company for inside wire and a compacted time that customers may recover damages or refunds when a telco has violated the law or Commission order. Currently, the State's statute of limitations for such an action is six years, although Qwest proposes a 1 year window from the time the complaint was filed.

Jan. 20 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 4 Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended "Do Pass", As Amended 6-0.
Feb. 5 Senate Passed 47-0.
Feb. 12 Introduced in House. Referred to Industry, Business and Labor Committee.


SB 2255 The legislation establishes what is commonly called a "Do Not Call" list. The bill will set rules for when telemarketers may call and gives individuals the ability to register their telephone number as one that should not be called by telemarketers. There are exemptions in the legislation for telephone solicitations that have been permitted by the customer or when there is a established personal or business relationship between the telephone solicitor and the customer. There are also exceptions for charitable organizations in certain instances, political communications and sales calls where the actual sale will be made later in a face-to-face meeting between the caller and customer. Following a request to be included in the "Do Not Call" database the ban on contacting that number is effective for five years unless the customer asks that it be revoked. Consumers who are called after placing their number in the registry may sue for actual damages or up to $2,000 per occurrence, whichever is greater.

Jan. 20 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 10 Judiciary Committee Recommended "Do Pass", As Amended, 5-0.
Feb. 12 Appropriations Committee Recommended "Do Pass", As Amended, 5-0.
Feb. 13 Senate Passed 40-5.


SB 2400 Legislation to protect independent telephone companies in North Dakota when property in which they have an easement is foreclosed upon by a county for nonpayment of property taxes. Under current law, the telephone company's ownership of a easement would revert to the county when a property owner failed to pay their taxes and the land was lost in foreclosure. Senator Randy Christmann and Representative Craig Headland are co-sponsoring the measure, along with Representative Dwight Wrangham. Language in the bill makes sure that any property interest acquired by the county in foreclosure is subject to an easement or right-of-way if properly registered.

Jan. 27 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 13 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended "Do Pass", As Amended, 6-0.