Senate Bill No. 491
(By Senators Sypolt (By Request), Williams and Beach)
[Introduced February 2, 2012; referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; and then to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §24-2-19, relating to powers and duties of the Public Service Commission; and providing that the Public Service Commission has the authority and duty to regulate the practices, services and rates of broadband deployment projects.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated §24-2-19, to read as follows:
ARTICLE 2. POWERS AND DUTIES OF PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION.
§24-2-19. Requirements for broadband deployment projects.
(a) The Legislature finds and determines that:
(1) The Legislature has allocated $4 million for broadband deployment project grants and the Broadband Deployment Council has been established to initiate a grant program to distribute those funds to worthy projects that demonstrate a process and technology that is effective in rural West Virginia.
(2) Prior experience within the state has shown that projects such as these may at times be at risk from defensive actions by incumbent telecommunications companies. As a result, any funded project may be subject to predatory pricing from incumbents who can absorb the cost to reduce pricing in a local area until the broadband deployment project can no longer compete.
(3) Once the competition has been eliminated, the incumbents may substantially increase their charges for these services. In order to avoid incumbents from creating artificial overlaps to void grant applications by serving a few customers at a low performance level to meet noncompetitive grant standards, regulation by the Public Service Commission is required to reduce these risks and enable the success of future projects selected by the Broadband Deployment Council.
(b) It is the purpose and policy of the Legislature in enacting this section to confer upon the Public Service Commission the authority and duty to regulate the practices, services and rates of broadband deployment projects as defined in article fifteen-c, chapter thirty-one of this code, in order to:
(1) Ensure standard uniform broadband pricing for equal service across the state that is just, reasonable, applied without unjust discrimination or preference and based primarily on the costs of providing these services;
(2) Establish a standard target level of availability, performance and price for broadband service commensurate with leading competitive performance in international and domestic commerce, education and household needs;
(3) Ensure that a competitive standard may not be less than ninety-five percent coverage of all consumers requesting service and that there shall be availability of a minimum of five megabit symmetric (up and down) for households and as much bandwidth as is needed for all commercial, educational and institutional consumers;
(4) Ensure that charges for these services may not exceed $10 for each megabit for households, $50 for the first five megabits for commercial, educational or institutional consumers and $10 for each megabit thereafter;
(5) Require county development authorities to identify areas within each county that fail to meet this standard based on consumer petition;
(6) Require incumbents to respond within sixty days of their intentions of meeting this standard within one year; and
(7) Provide that if the incumbent fails to comply with this requirement set out in this section, the incumbent shall quit all claims for providing the standard service within the defined area.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to provide that the Public Service Commission has the authority and duty to regulate the practices, services and rates of broadband deployment projects.
This section is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.