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Maintaining telecom rates as low as possible for residential and business consumers consistent with minimum standards of service, safety, economic viability, and the environment. As the telecommunications industry moves to a competitive framework, the Section also reviews wholesale rates between telecommunications providers to ensure that an effectively competitive market emerges.
Providing customers with reliable, up-to-date, responsive, safe, and timely utility service.
Ensuring that return regulated telecom providers earn a return sufficient for their long-term economic viability and their ability to update their physical plant or equipment to provide reliable, safe, state-of-the art services essential to Colorado consumers.
The Section accomplishes its mission by issuing authorities to operate, establishing industry rate and service standards, initiating enforcement and compliance activities, assisting consumers with complaints and educational efforts, and administering direct service programs.
Each telecommunications provider serving Colorado customers must apply for and receive a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) and a Certificate of Operating Authority to operate in Colorado. The PUC provides oversight over entry and exit from the Colorado market for telecommunication services with the goal of protecting customers from unscrupulous companies and assuring that companies provide service to customers on a non-discriminatory basis.
Issuing CPCNs increases public confidence in the companies authorized to provide telecom services in the State. This promotes financially healthy companies who will stay in business and provide a high level of service to their customers.
The PUC issues certificates of operating authority to identify the specific market areas and specific services offered by each company. Companies entering the Colorado market may not initially provide service to all areas of the State and may not initially provide all telecommunications services to their selected market areas.
In addition, the PUC grants letters of registration to companies providing emerging competitive intrastate services. It also registers long-distance companies. If customers are transferred without authorization to another long distance provider (slammed), the PUC may initiate action under state and federal laws to assist consumers. Non-optional operator services require an operator for credit card calls, calls billed to third-party numbers, collect calls, person-to-person calls, and service to inmate of penal institutions. The rates for these services from non-optional operator service providers are capped at a maximum rate to ensure that Colorado citizens using the services do not pay excessive rates, or are not held hostage to non-dial-around equipment.
Rates for selected telecommunication services must be approved by the PUC. The Section reviews requests by telecommunication providers for rate changes to ensure that financial, engineering, legal, and economic requirements are met. The Section considers and implements alternatives to standard rate-of-return regulation, such as maximum and minimum rates and variable rates, when authorized by the General Assembly and where consistent with the public interest.
In addition, the PUC establishes service standards to initiate and maintain service and equipment to a level necessary to promote the safety, health, comfort, and convenience for customers of all Colorado telecommunications providers. These range from the time frames for when a customer shall receive phone service, to technical network engineering standards, to procedures in disconnecting a customer's service.
The Section ensures compliance with federal and state statutes, Commission decisions, rules and safety standards, and takes enforcement action to correct non-compliance, as appropriate. A variety of tools are available to obtain compliance including desk and field audits of financial and service records, inspections of facilities and equipment, complaint investigation, show-cause actions, revocation action, and court actions intended to force compliance. Each of these tools involves due process intended to protect the rights of the regulated service provider as well as allowing input from other affected parties. Due process may include warning letters, notices of proposed action, opportunities to respond to allegations, mediation, settlement negotiations, evidentiary hearings, right to appeal decisions before the Commission, and appellate review of all final Commission decisions.
The Section responds to financial, economic, and engineering inquiries from a variety of sources on the full range of utility issues. These activities include response to general inquiries from individual citizens, the General Assembly, the Governor's office, other federal, state, and local government officials, industry professionals, utility service providers, attorneys, and national investment firms.
The Section administers a number of direct service programs. These include the Colorado High Cost Support Mechanism, Telecommunications Relay Services, Lifeline, and active participation in the industry-wide 9-1-1 Task Force.