MTA News BytesMeetings and Events

November 10, 2017

In This Issue

Meetings and Events

MTA Updates

Action Items

>> Save the Date! 2018 MTA Annual Convention

Informational items

>> FCC Says PUC Can't Regulate Charter's VoIP Service

>> FCC Releases 2018 Voice Service Rate Floor, Reasonably Comparable Rates

Peer Group Bulletin

>> New! 2018 MTA Peer Group Investment Opportunities!

>> Upcoming Peer Group Events

Safety Corner

>> Stress — Don’t Let it Be the Focus of Your Holiday

People and Companies

>> eSmart Systems and Border States Electric Finalize Agency Agreement Bringing Drone Technology and High-end Analytics to U.S. Utility Industry

>> In Memoriam: Colleen Melroe

MTA Staff

MTA President/CEO:
Brent J. Christensen
Event Planners:
Julie Cygan Diamond
Ashley Crunstedt
Carissa Wolf
Member Services:
Jeanne DeMartino

Anna Wrisky
Administrative Assistant:
Anne Christensen

Stay up-to-date on daily happenings at the MTA offices by following us on Facebook. From peer group meetings to annual conferences and everything in between, get the scoop on what’s happening at our offices!




November 20, 2017: Administrative Assistant Peer Group Fall Conference
AmericInn Lodge & Suites, Wahpeton, ND

December 6-7, 2017: Plant Manager & Superintendent Peer Group Meeting
Holiday Inn & Suites, St. Cloud

February 21-23, 2018: Telco Marketing Peer Group Winter Conference

March 26-28, 2018: MTA Annual Convention & Trade Show
Hyatt Regency Minneapolis

March 18-20, 2019: MTA Annual Convention & Trade Show
Hyatt Regency Minneapolis

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MTA Updates


2018 MTA Annual Convention

2018 MTA Convention Save the Date

We are now planning the Annual Convention and Trade Show, March 26-28, 2018, at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis.
Watch for more details soon!

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FCC Says PUC Can't Regulate Charter's VoIP Service

The FCC, in an amicus curiae brief filed Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (St. Louis), said the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission overstepped its authority in attempting to regulate the interconnected voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) service provided by Charter Advanced Services LLC to Minnesota customers.

"The FCC submits this brief to explain how Minnesota's sweeping assertion of regulatory authority over VoIP service threatens to disrupt the national voice services market and to address how relevant FCC orders provide more measured and appropriate mechanisms for regulating VoIP service," the FCC said. 

The question regarding the PUC's oversight of Charter's VoIP service, known as Spectrum Voice, is currently before the Eighth Circuit. The Minnesota PUC in 2015 ordered Charter to comply with all Minnesota laws and rules that apply to local phone service (05/08/15). But a federal district court earlier this year ruled that Charter's VoIP service should be classified as an "information service" exempt from state regulation. The court in its May 8 ruling said, "Spectrum Voice engages in net protocol conversion, and that this feature renders it an 'information service' under applicable legal and administrative precedent." State regulation of Spectrum Voice is therefore "preempted and impermissible." (Charter Advanced Services v. Beverly Jones Heydinger, in her official capacity as Chair of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission; et al., case 15-cv-03935)

"In this specific factual context, the touchstone of the information services inquiry is whether Spectrum Voice acts on the customer's information — here a phone call — in such a way as to 'transform' that information. By altering the protocol in which that information is transmitted, Charter Advanced's service clearly does so. This conclusion is in line with the FCC's determination in the Non-Accounting Safeguards Order, which reasoned that 'an end-to-end protocol conversion service that enables an end-user to send information into a network in one protocol and have it exit the network in a different protocol clearly 'transforms' user information."

The PUC appealed the district court's ruling and continues to maintain that Charter's VoIP service "has the functionality of a telecommunications service and its customers regard it as offering such a service," and that it was within the telecommunications systems management exception of the definition of "information services" under the federal Telecommunications Act. The PUC insists that Charter's VoIP service "has the functionality of a telecommunications service and its customers regard it as offering such a service," and that it was within the telecommunications systems management exception of the definition of "information services" under the federal Telecommunications Act. The commission has also argued that public policy supported state regulation.

The FCC, on the other hand, said there was a longstanding federal policy of "nonregulation for information services," and that "states are independently prohibited from subjecting information services to any form of state economic regulation." The Minnesota commission's attempt at regulating Charter's VoIP phone service threatens to disrupt the entire voice market, it said.

"The Minnesota PUC's sweeping demand that Charter comply with the state's full panoply of legacy telephone regulations, even though the FCC has not classified VoIP as a telecommunications service, threatens to disrupt the national voice services market," the FCC said. "By subjecting fixed VoIP service to an extensive array of state public-utility requirements, the PUC's order is likely to stifle competition and innovation in emerging VoIP technology and could deprive consumers of access to valuable new services."

According to the FCC, if the Minnesota PUC's efforts to regulate VoIP service were upheld, "all 50 states could potentially seek to impose a patchwork of separate and potentially conflicting requirements on VoIP service," which could "throw the national voice services market into disarray." 

The FCC pointed out that other states had no "apparent difficulty overseeing VoIP providers within the mechanisms established by existing FCC orders." The FCC, therefore, suggests that the Minnesota PUC look to other federal rulings to address specific regulatory concerns pertaining to areas such as funding for state public assistance programs and protection against slamming. The Commission said it currently requires VoIP providers to contribute to federal public assistance programs, and existing FCC orders provide a mechanism for states to administer similar programs at the state level, "irrespective of how VoIP service is classified."

"States can thus require VoIP providers to collect and remit surcharges to fund state public assistance programs so long as those requirements are properly structured to comply with certain federal rules," the FCC said.

And if the Minnesota PUC had other regulatory needs, it could have raised those concerns with the FCC by requesting a declaratory ruling or a new rulemaking. "That would allow the FCC to offer a solution that would apply nationwide and avoid the risk that VoIP providers will be subject to a patchwork of different and potentially conflicting rules across more than 50 different state and local jurisdictions." (Charter Advanced Services (MN) LLC; Charter Advanced Services VIII (MN) LLC, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Nancy Lange, in her official capacity as Chair of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, et al., Defendants-Appellants) -Carrie DeLeon,

FCC Releases 2018 Voice Service Rate Floor, Reasonably Comparable Rates

From NECA’s Washington Watch

The Wireline Competition Bureau released a Public Notice on November 8, 2017, announcing the 2018 voice service rate floor, the reasonable comparability benchmarks for fixed voice and broadband services, and the required minimum usage allowance for ETCs subject to public interest obligations. The 2018 urban average monthly local voice service rate (the rate floor) is $25.50, and the reasonable comparability benchmark for voice services is $45.38. The 2018 reasonable comparability benchmarks for broadband service offerings range from $85.54 for 4/1 Mbps with a capacity allowance of 170 GB to $217.43 for 1000/100 Mbps with an unlimited allowance. The Bureau noted in May 2017, the Commission froze the local voice rate floor at which support reductions would occur at $18 until July 1, 2018, or until the Commission takes further action. Carriers will not be subject to any support reductions for any rate that is a least $18, but carriers must still report their ratesto the extent those rates are below the $25.50 rate floor in their annual Form 481 filings.

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Peer Group Bulletin
All MTA members are welcome to join a Peer Group

New! 2018 MTA Peer Group Investment Opportunities Now Available!

MTA’s core purpose is to enhance the success and viability of its telecommunications industry members. You are an important part of helping us fulfill this mission. Here is your opportunity to maximize the impact of your event sponsorships for 2018. Sign up online or download the 2018 Peer Group Investment Opportunities for full details.

>> Sign up today!

Upcoming Peer Group Events

Administrative Assistant Peer Group 2017 Fall Conference

November 20, 2017 | AmericInn Lodge & Suites, Wahpeton, North Dakota

Rates: $99 per person

AmericInn Lodge & Suites
2029 210 Drive | Wahpeton, North Dakota  58075
Call 701-642-8365; ask for Allison. Room block name: MN Administrative Assistants Peer Group

>> Full Details and Registration

Plant Manager & Superintendent Peer Group Meeting

December 6-7, 2017 | Holiday Inn & Suites, St. Cloud, Minnesota 

Rates: $150 members or nonmembers

Holiday Inn & Suites
75 S 37th Ave. | St. Cloud, Minnesota  5630

Room block ends November 24, 2017 — call 1-800-315-2621 to make reservations.

2018 Telco Marketing Peer Group Winter Conference

February 21-23, 2018 | Watch for more details!

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Safety Corner

Stress — Don’t Let it Be the Focus of Your Holiday

Keep calm and carry on Holidays are joyful times, but can also be times of high stress. Balancing family expectations with work commitments and social obligations can make this the most stressful time of the year.
Things such as shopping, decorating, cooking, and family gatherings add up and increase stress; then add work responsibilities on top of that, and one can often feel stressed out.

What are some of the signs that you may be experiencing a high level of stress?

  • Frequent anger or agitation
  • Feeling overwhelmed, sad or hopeless
  • Moodiness, going from high to low
  • Feeling lonely or isolated
  • Constant worrying
  • Feeling pessimistic
  • Can’t relax

Before this holiday season gets too busy, try these ideas to reduce your stress level.

Define your mission: In times of high stress, having a clear purpose can help. When you begin to feel overwhelmed or stressed, take a deep breath and remember why the holidays are important to you.

Plan: Creating calendars for both home and work can go a long ways to decrease stress. At work, note who will be working on which days; if you know in advance that the office will be short-staffed, you can make plans. At home, keeping track of special events, family gatherings and other activities can assist in planning and prioritizing your time.

breathe in peace

Keep it simple: Lower your expectations. Recognize that it is unrealistic to have a “perfect” holiday. When working, there is less time for shopping, cooking, social events or travel. Simplifying your holiday plans can go a long way to make your holiday less stressful.

Take care: It is especially important when stress is high that you take time for yourself. Fatigue, headache, elevated blood pressure, increased irritability and insomnia are all symptoms of stress. Remember to eat balanced meals, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly. Feeling stressed? Stop and take a number of slow, deep breaths.

Enjoy the holidays, reduce your stress and focus on why the holidays are important to you.

Chris Swanson
Safety Consultant

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People Companies

eSmart Systems and Border States Electric Finalize Agency Agreement Bringing Drone Technology and High-end Analytics to U.S. Utility Industry

FARGO, N.D. —Innovations in the power generation and utility industries are leading to safer, more efficient ways to inspect infrastructure, and detect outages and leaks. For more than five years, researchers have been looking for ways to improve the safety and efficiency of the utility industry using drone technology to inspect electric, gas and oil infrastructure.

Today, eSmart Systems Inc., U.S. announced they finalized an agency agreement with Border States Electric (BSE) to provide eSmart Systems’ Thundercloud, Connected Drone and Connected Grid systems to customers in the 48 contiguous states. Both companies have been instrumental in advancing the technology specifically for the utility and power generation industries.

Thundercloud is an end-to-end solution for infrastructure inspections, featuring the Connected Grid and Connected Drone software components. The main client, Connected Grid, provides real-time monitoring of the grid allowing operators access to detect faults, plan maintenance needs while reducing investments and reduce costs related to outages. The Connected Drone uses artificial intelligence to catalog infrastructure components and monitor their health. The results are used to view infrastructure status and provide a basis for maintenance tasks. This not only brings a significant safety component to the inspection of utility assets using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), or drones, but allows for safe, efficient, reliable and intelligent grid operations.

Gerald “Poke” Buck, BSE’s senior vice president utility sales, said, “The Thundercloud, Connected Drone and Connected Grid solutions from eSmart Systems are just what our utility, gas and oil customers have been asking for. We are thrilled about our new relationship with eSmart Systems and the high-quality, end-to-end, complete solutions that we will be supplying to the utility and industrial markets."

Knut E. Gustavsen, eSmart Systems’ corporate vice president and president North America, said "The partnership with BSE is an important milestone for eSmart Systems and our continued growth in the U.S. market. We are very excited to work with an industry leader such as BSE to further advance the applications of drones, big data analytics and intelligent asset management through our Thundercloud solution, to help utilities and their customers across the U.S. to lower costs and experience a more reliable service."

In Memoriam: Colleen Melroe

Colleen F. Melroe, age 70, passed away peacefully on November 5, 2017 following liver transplant surgery on January 30, 2017.

Colleen endured many hardships but also a lot of pleasant moments over the past nine months of hospitalization and nursing home stay. She was visited by several long-time friends and co-workers, and almost daily by close friends Beverly Wright and Curt Sampson. While the liver transplant was successful, she had some setbacks including the inability to eat, a broken hip from a fall, massive infections and a dozen other procedures. The nutrition and anti-rejection meds were withdrawn Sunday, October 29, after which she continued to decline.

Colleen was born in Grafton, ND, on March 18, 1947, and grew up in Cavalier, ND, where she attended school, graduating with the class of 1965. She went on to attend North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton, received her Associate Degree in Business and went to work in Fargo for Kost Brothers Construction and Clark Equipment. She moved to Minneapolis in 1978. She joined Means Telecom in 1996, later known as Onvoy, Inc., where she was employed as the Executive Secretary to Dave Kelly and Janice Aune, Presidents, and also the committee chairman and longtime friend Walt Clay. In her position, she became good friends of the board members, their families and most all of the shareholder members. In November 2007 she joined Communications Systems, Inc., as Executive Assistant to the Presidents, and Chairman Curtis A. Sampson, who had also served on the Onvoy board during her years at Onvoy. She actively served in that role until her surgery January 30, at which time she went on medical leave until her retirement in April.

Colleen’s favorite pastimes were listening to music, watching DVDs (particularly of Celtic Thunder), and watching the Food Network. Colleen came to enjoy horse racing at Canterbury Park and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the horses at the farms and racetrack. Her favorites were Sugar Storm, and namesake Cavalier Prince.

Colleen is survived by her mother Doreen Lesher Sundeen of Detroit Lakes, MN, brother Douglas Lesher of Hot Springs, SD, and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. She was preceded in death by her father, Lyle Lesher.

A memorial service will be held at the condo building where she lived at 5643 Green Circle Drive, Minnetonka, on the 2nd floor on Friday, November 17, 2017 from 4:00 to 7:00pm. Interment will be at Cavalier, ND, at a later date.

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