Public Utilities Engineer
PUF: What is your role here?
Patrick Reinhardt: There are the day-to-day issues, such as reviewing applications for companies that want to come into Georgia to provide telephone service. We still get quite a few of those wire-line type companies coming in. We also review interconnection agreements and finance applications. Those are just examples of filings that are made that we have to approve or reject on a daily basis.
Probably the two most high-profile items that the telecom Staff deals with, however, are the Telecommunications Relay Service and the Universal Access Fund.
The Telecommunications Relay Service is a service for the deaf and hard of hearing, which assists them in making and receiving telephone calls. It has been expanded over the years to provide hearing aids to low-income people that are outside of Medicare eligibility, among other services.
There's the administrative aspect of funds coming in from the companies that must be processed, and then money going out to the providers of those services.
The Universal Access Fund is what we call our state's universal service fund. In 2010 there was a bill passed that did a couple of things. One, it prolonged the high-cost fund, which is for the rural rate-of-return carriers, and we still have direct regulation over them.