2. Legislative Background

A central battery system was deployed by telecommunications service providers in the 1920s to improve network operations, performance and reliability. As a result, batteries and generators located in the provider's central office were able to power both the central office and the customer's telephone in the event of a power outage, assuming the telephone system is otherwise intact. The same continues to be true today for customers receiving wireline service from a facilities-based provider through copper wires. However, newer communications transmission technologies, including fiber optic and coaxial cable facilities, do not provide power to the customer's telephone. Thus, they may require distributed backup power systems, both in the network and at the customer's premises, in order to have this capability.

Section 776 [AB 2393(1)] requires the Commission to consider the need for performance reliability standards for backup power systems installed on the premises of residential and small commercial customers by a facilities-based provider of telephony services. The Commission is to develop and implement such standards if the benefits of the standards exceed the costs. This statute also requires the Commission to report back to the Legislature on the results of this proceeding.

The Commission was directed to consider the following standards: minimum operating life, minimum time period in which a telephone system with a charged backup power system will provide the customer with sufficient electricity for emergency usage, and a means to warn the customer when the backup system's charge is low or when the system can no longer hold a charge. In developing any such standards, the Commission is to consider current Best Practices and the technical feasibility of establishing battery backup requirements.

Automatic dialing-announcing devices are used in emergency notification systems by law enforcement agencies, fire protection agencies, public health agencies, public environmental health agencies, city or county emergency services planning agencies, and private for-profit agencies operating under contract with, and at the direction of, one or more of these agencies. These are automatic devices that store phone numbers and disseminate a prerecorded message to those phone numbers in the event of an emergency.

Section 2872.5 [AB 2393(2)] requires the Commission, in consultation with the Office of Emergency Services (OES) and the Department of General Services (DGS), to determine whether standardized notification systems and protocols should be used by entities that are authorized to use automatic dialing devices to facilitate notification of affected members of the public in the event of local emergencies. The Commission is not to establish standards unless the benefits of the standards exceed the costs. The Commission is also required to provide any recommendations it may have for funding notification systems and any statutory modifications needed to facilitate notification of affected members of the public during local emergencies.

As noted above, providers of telecommunications service generally install backup power systems on their own facilities so that their networks can operate when the electric utility serving the property has a power outage. The backup power systems are designed to enable the telecommunications networks to function and customers to contact a public safety answering point operator (9-1-1 service) during an electrical outage. These backup power systems are often batteries supplemented by diesel-powered electric generators, which recharge the batteries. In addition to telephony providers' own motivation to ensure network reliability and operational efficiencies, minimizing communications service disruptions is widely beneficial for public safety and economic wellbeing.

Section 2892.1 [AB 2393(3)] requires the Commission, in consultation with OES and DGS, to determine the need for backup power systems not located on the customer's premises and to determine performance criteria. If the Commission determines it is in the public interest, it is required to develop performance reliability standards for such backup power systems and implement the standards if the benefits exceed the costs. In developing such standards, the Commission is to consider current Best Practices and technical feasibility for establishing battery backup requirements.

The Commission is also to determine whether the Best Practices for backup power systems have been implemented by service providers. In addition, the Commission is required to determine the feasibility of the use of zero greenhouse gas emission fuel cell systems to replace diesel generators for such backup power systems.3

Section 2892.1(a) provides that for the purposes of Section 2892.1, "telecommunications service" means voice communication provided by a telephone corporation as defined in Section 234, voice communications provided by a provider of satellite telephone services, voice communications provided by a provider of mobile telephony service as defined in Section 2890.2, and voice communications provided by a facilities-based provider of voice communications utilizing Voice over Internet Protocol or any successor protocol.

The Commission was required to report to the Legislature on the results of the investigation before January 1, 2008, and complete the proceeding within 18 months, i.e., November 30, 2008.

3 Section 42801.1 of the California Health and Safety Code defines greenhouse gas as including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

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