• Public Law 2011, Chapter 623: An Act to Implement Recommendations To Reform Telecommunications Regulation
  • June 12, 2012 | Authors: J. Andrew Cashman; Joseph G. Donahue
  • Law Firm: Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios, LLP - Augusta Office
  • On April 12, 2012, Governor LePage signed into law LD 1784, An Act to Implement Recommendations to Reform Telecommunications Regulation. This historic legislation (Public Law 2011, Chapter 623) changes the way telecommunications providers are regulated in Maine. The sweeping reform impacts approximately 160 sections ofMaine's telecommunications statute (Title 35-A) and 32 PUC rules. Importantly, it updates the decades-old telecommunications statute and recognizes the competitive telecommunications market of the 21st Century.

    Attorneys Joseph Donahue and Andy Cashman assisted in crafting LD 1784 prior to the Second Regular Session of the 125th Maine Legislature. Once drafted, they led the lobbying effort of the bill throughout its consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology and the Legislature as a whole.

    Why did Maine's telecommunications providers need reformed legislation?

    The public utility telecommunications regulatory structure was contained in statutes which were originally enacted in 1913. Those statutes had not changed enough over time to reflect the momentous technological and market changes in the telecommunications industry. With the passage of this bill, our state's regulation of telecommunications services enters the 21st century."

    What does Chapter 623 mean for Maine's telecommunications providers?

    Robust Competition: Traditional telephone companies such as FairPoint Communications, as well as other telecommunications providers who have entered the market, will have regulatory freedom for most products and services. This will allow providers to promptly and effectively pursue competitive pricing and technological innovation in response to customer demands.

    This reformed statute will promote robust competition that will bring more technological innovation, better product offerings, competitive pricing, and increased telecommunications investment for the benefit of Maine people and businesses.

    How will Chapter 623 benefit Maine residents?

    While LD 1784 removes many regulatory burdens for telecommunications providers, it also keeps essential consumer protections in place. Perhaps most importantly, it preserves vital public policy of maintaining a "Provider of Last Resort" so that all Maine consumers have access to a reasonably affordable voice communications option - regardless of where they live in the state.

    What are the significant provisions of Chapter 623?

    Many months of intense study and examination was performed by the Public Utilities Commission, the Telecommunications Industry, the Maine Public Advocate, and numerous consumer groups to review and update the public utility and telecommunications provisions of M.S.R.A Title 35-A, Maine's Public Utility Statutes. The PUC presented a final report to the Energy, Utilities, & Technology Committee at the beginning of the session, and that report became the foundation for Chapter 623. All stakeholders - PUC, Public Advocate, Industry, and consumer groups - negotiated for many weeks to arrive at a consensus which became the amended bill. The significant provisions of LD 1784 include:

    • The only retail service that continues to be subject to tariff requirements & regulation is a Provider of Last Resort (POLR). Rates for POLR service are initially the current local rates.

    • Complete regulatory freedom with all other retail products & services.
    • Service Quality standards, applying to POLR service only, will be developed by PUC with stakeholder participation; PUC may impose penalties only after conducting an investigation.
    • Reorganization statute goes from 10% to 25%; language is eliminated from the affiliated interests statute that requires reporting of a transaction unless it involves the utility, a subsidiary, or the parent of the utility.
    • VoIP completely deregulated;
    • 3rd Party Verification for LD and DSL no longer required;
    • Option to stop printing and distributing Directories;
    • Preserves federal interconnection rights and obligations that are regulated or overseen by the PUC;
    • All Voice Service Providers (landline, VoIP, wireless) must pay into the MUSF and MTEAF funds.
    • Onerous provisions of mapping and outage reporting eliminated.
    • Maintains regulation of wholesale and inter-carrier matters.