Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 1995

LEC Competition Gains Ground in Texas

Rep. Curtis Seidlits, Jr. (D) has filed a 245-page telecommunications bill, H.B. 2128, in the Texas legislature. The bill seeks to move regulated local exchange carriers (LECs) to a more competitive arena. It also addresses issues such as infrastructure improvements, telemedicine, and the information highway. H.R. 2128 culminates two years of study by the Joint Interim Committee (House and Senate members) on Telecommunications on how to reform the way Texas telephone companies are regulated.

Interruptible Tariffs Labeled Burden

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has approved tariff revisions proposed by Pennsylvania Power & Light Co. (PP&L), an electric utility, to limit the availability of its interruptible services. The PUC also directed PP&L to file new interruptible rates at its next rate case, based on the cost of providing such service and on the value to the utility of maintaining its interruptible load.

Wisconsin Gas Customers May Get to Choose

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has initiated a proceeding to pursue development of a market-based approach to natural gas regulation (Docket No. 05-GI-108). A public hearing has been set for May 16. The PSC's goal is to remove barriers to competition and permit customers to choose their natural gas service. Under the model, the PSC would stop regulating a utility's natural gas costs when it finds that a competitive market has developed for a given class of service.

IntraLATA Dialing Parity Spreading

To further competition in the state's telephone industry, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has decided to require local exchange telephone carriers (LECs) to offer intraLATA presubscription as part of the access services provided for competitors in the toll-call market. It found the lack of "1+" dialing parity (experienced by customers who choose interexchange carriers (IXCs) rather than LECs for intraLATA toll calling) a competitive barrier that could be removed without diminshing access to basic telephone service for Florida consumers.

Nuclear Waste Storage Effort Moves Forward

In response to the recent vote by the Mescalero Apache Tribe approving creation of a temporary nuclear waste storage site on tribal lands in New Mexico, the consortium of 34 utilities seeking a spent-fuel site have geared up for action.

According to Scott Northard, project manager for the consortium, Northern States Power Co. (NSP) (em which has spearheaded the effort (em has met with the other utilities and found enough interest to move forward with the process. May 3 is the target date for firm utility commitments to the project.

LEC Rejects Price-cap Plan

While reconsidering an earlier rate case order for New England Telephone & Telegraph Co., a telecommunications local exchange carrier (LEC), the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) has approved an incentive regulation plan for the LEC and set out a series of recommendations to guide the development of a full price-cap regulation plan. Nevertheless, the PSB noted that a problem had developed in the case as a result of combining the revenue requirement aspect of the rate proceeding with consideration of the LEC's price-cap plan.

Resources West Merger Promises Big Savings

Sierra Pacific Resources and The Washington Water Power Co. have filed a report at the Nevada Public Service Commission on their proposed merger to form Resources West Energy (RWE), estimating a combined savings of $449 million over the next 10 years. As a result, the utilities propose to freeze rates until at least 2000, except for one limited price increase in Nevada in 1997 and selected adjustments for energy supplies or extenuating circumstances.

About 42 percent of the savings will result from consolidation of duplicate functions and reductions in the workforce.


How do American electric utilities differ from water companies, telephone companies, airlines, insurance firms, food processors, newspapers, steel mills, and other industries in the United States? "They produce electricity and the others don't," you answer. Maybe, but the others can produce electricity, too, if they want to.

Marketing & Competing

With the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) come many complex decisions for electric utilities. By now the majority of utilities have decided how they will comply with the clean air guidelines and acid rain program limits, at least for Phase I. But for those utilities that have selected coal switching as the preferred method of complying with the law, the task gets more complicated. Burn expensive low-sulfur coal and bank or sell allowances? Or burn just enough low-sulfur coal to meet the rules, and no more?

MFS Asks FCC to Open the Local Loop

MFS Communications Co. (MFS) has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to order monopoly local exchange carriers (LECs) to open access to the "local loop" for competitive telephone companies at a cost-based rate. The MFS "Open Loop Initiative" seeks to speed development of local telephone competition and to provide a choice of local carriers.

The local loop is that part of the local telephone network that physically connects the customer's premises to the LEC central office.