February 10, 2012

In This Issue

Meetings and Events

MTA Updates

>> Reminder: Don't Forget to Register for Lunches at the Convention

>> MN Department of Commerce Issues Notice to Providers

>> MTA Holds Training on FCC Order

>> FCC Issues Clarification Order on USF/ICC Reform

>> Senate Republicans Oust Ellen Anderson as PUC chair

>> 2012 Scholarship Application

>> Interested in Serving on a MTA Committee?

>> Cold Weather and Keeping Warm

People and Companies

>> Finley Engineering Announces Upcoming Retirement of President/CEO

MTA Staff

MTA President/CEO:
Brent Christensen
Team Leader:

Jacquie Jaskowiak
Meeting Planner:
Julie Cygan
Member Services:
Chris Swanson
Janey Duntley

February 28-29, 2012: MTA Day on the Hill

March 25-27, 2012: MTA 2012 Annual Convention

June 11-13, 2012: 2012 MTA Fishing Outing

Save the Date – April 26-27, 2012: Customer Service Peer Group Spring Meeting

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Reminder: Don't Forget to Register for Lunches at the Convention

In addition to the informative breakout sessions packed into this year's convention, the event offers two opportunities to hear from national experts with the most up-to-date information on our industry.  The Monday "Issues Luncheon” will feature former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan. Senator Dorgan has been working hard in DC with the Rural Coalition advocating on behalf of rural telcos. With more than 30 years of service in Congress, Senator Dorgan has a unique perspective that has been a strong voice for rural America.
Tuesday’s Keynote luncheon will feature NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield.  Her talk, "Rural Telecom: Creating the Future,” will be an interactive opportunity for MTA members to learn about not only the Rural Coalition's efforts at the FCC and Congress, but also about the conversations with OPASTCO on "Unification” opportunities.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign up for the luncheons.  Tickets are only $40 each and members can register on the MTA website. For more information, please contact either Jacquie Jaskowiak at jacquiej@mnta.org, 651-288-3724 or Brent Christensen at bchristensen@mnta.org, 651-288-3723.

Don’t miss the action. REGISTER NOW!


MN Department of Commerce Issues Notice to Providers

As a result of recent meetings with the Department of Commerce, the department sent the following e-mail to MTA members:

To all Minnesota Local Telephone Service Providers:
The Federal Communication Commission’s recent USF/ICC Order requires incumbent local exchange carriers to bring monthly rates up to a floor of $10 by January 1, 2012 and $14 by January 1, 2013, in order to avoid forfeiture of Universal Service High Cost Fund support. FCC clarification is still needed on whether any rate increases need to be in place by July 1 rather than January 1 of each year to comply with FCC rules. The FCC requirement on price floors may not be consistent with the notice that small telephone companies have been providing to customers under Minnesota law.

Minnesota Statute 237.773 Subd. 3 (c) states in part:

A small telephone company proposing an increase shall provide 60 days' advance written notice to its customers including individual rates affected and the procedure necessary for the customers to petition for investigation. If the commission receives a petition within 45 days after such notice, from five percent or 500, whichever is fewer, of the customers of the small telephone company, the department and the company shall jointly determine if the petition is valid and, if so, may investigate the proposed rate increase to determine if it is appropriate in light of rates charged by other local exchange telephone companies for comparable services, taking into account calling scope, quality of service, the availability of competitive alternatives, service costs, and the features available to the customers.
Incumbent local service providers that increase rates to an amount no greater than the FCC established price floors would have rates that are comparable to the rates charged by other local exchange carriers. Thus, the notice to customers should be modified to reflect the current regulatory environment.    
For future notices on rate increases provided to consumers, the Minnesota Department of Commerce suggests that companies use the following language, in addition to showing the specific rate increases that will be experienced by customers:
Under the terms of regulations that govern (name of telephone company), customers may request an investigation by filing a petition with the Minnesota Department of Commerce regarding any rate increase that exceeds the FCC determined price floor. The Department of Commerce has indicated that they will not investigate rate increases that do not exceed the FCC determined price floor, since rates at the price floor would be deemed comparable to the rates charged by other local telephone companies. The price floor is $10 as of January 1, 2012; $14 as of January 1, 2013, and the floor is expected to be increased further on or after January 1, 2014. These price floors include any charges for extended area service that may be reflected on your bill. For rate increases that exceed the FCC determined price floor, if 500 or 5% (whichever is fewer) of the affected customers file a petition within 45 days of (name of telephone company)’s filing, the Department will investigate the increase.

Petitions should be addressed to: 
Minnesota Department of Commerce
85 7th Place East, Suite 500
St. Paul, MN 55101
Phone: (651) 296-4026
E-Mail: telecom.commerce@state.mn.us

You may reply to this email if you have any questions about this change in the notice requirement.

Greg Doyle
Manager, Telecommunications
Minnesota Department of Commerce

MTA Holds Training on FCC Order

This past Tuesday, training was held at the Ewald Conference Center on the FCC’s Order on USF/ICC. More than 75 attendees heard about the changes to the industry the Order is bringing about from a panel of industry experts. In addition to MTA member company representatives, staff members from the MN Department of Commerce and the MN Public Utilities Commission were in attendance. USF/AR Subcommittee Chairman Bill VanderSluis kicked off the event by framing the discussion and introducing the first panel, consisting of Tom Farm (Olsen-Thielen), Tom Campbell (Olsen-Thielen), Jerry Burmeister (ITCI), and Pat Holton (Olsen-Thielen).  Their presentations focused on the background and transitional timelines spelled out in the order.  The issues surrounding local transport restructure were also addressed.
Tom Burns (Olsen-Thielen) and Fritz Hendricks (Onvoy Voice Services) led a discussion on the Order’s impact on CMRS traffic and how new IntraMTA rules will work in Minnesota. This was followed by a presentation from Tom Farm on new financial reporting timelines and requirements. Roxi Hacker (ITCI) talked to attendees about non-financial reporting requirements spelled out in the Order and what members can expect to file beginning this year. The day concluded with a discussion on the FCC’s Further Notice for Proposed Rule Making and the work the rural associations group is doing to represent the industry, along with the MTA. "We are very fortunate to have so many committed volunteers to dig deep into this issue for our members,” commented MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen, "A lot of hard work went into the presentations today, and it shows.”
For more information, or to receive a copy of the presentations, please contact MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen at: bchristensen@mnta.org or 651-288-3723.

FCC Issues Clarification Order on USF/ICC Reform

Information provided by Vantage Point Solutions

The FCC published an order February 3, clarifying certain rules and deadlines that were published in the FCC’s ICC USF Reform Order. These clarifications address the following requirements for high-cost USF recipients:

  • Five Year Build-Out Plan:
    • April 1, 2012: ETCs designated by the FCC are required to file a progress report on their existing FCC five-year build-out plans (previously due to FCC October 1).
    • April 1, 2012: ETCs that have been designated by a state commission should continue to comply with state requirements, if any, regarding service improvement plans. If a state commission previously required an ETC to file a service quality improvement plan or annual updates with the state commission then the ETC should do so, but is not required to send a copy to the FCC.  
    • April 1, 2013: All ETCs that receive USF high-cost support are required to file with the FCC, state commission and USAC a new five-year build-out plan that accounts for the new broadband obligations.
    • April 1, 2014: All ETCs that receive support are required to file with the FCC a progress report on their five-year build-out plan (and annually thereafter).
  • Reporting of Information concerning outages, unfulfilled service requests, and complaints, among other things (Within Annual ETC Progress Report Filing):
    • April 1, 2012: ETCs designated by the FCC are still required to file this information with respect to their provision of voice service during 2011 (was previously due October 1).
    • April 1, 2013: All ETCs must file such information with the FCC separately, broken out for both voice and broadband service plans (and annually thereafter).
  • Reporting of Tribal Lands (Within Annual ETC Progress Report Filing):
    • April 1, 2013: All ETCs serving Tribal Lands must provide information demonstrating that they have engaged with Tribal governments in their supported areas (and annually thereafter). The FCC Office of Native Affairs and Policy with the WCB and WTB will provide further guidance on the processes to be used in 2012, which will be the substance of the information reported next year.
  • Reporting of Recipient’s holding company, operating companies, affiliates, and any branding by Study Area Code (SAC) (Within Annual ETC Progress Report Filing):
    • April 1, 2013: High-cost recipients must report ownership information (and annually thereafter).
  • Privately Held Rate-of-Return Carriers / Annual Audit Report Filing:  
    • TBD: the USF/ICC Transformation Order adopted financial reporting requirements for privately held rate-of-return carriers to be reported beginning April 1, 2012, subject to PRA approval. The Bureau clarified that the April 1 reporting date will not be applicable if PRA approval is not received prior to April 1 with sufficient time for respondents to comply. The Bureau will provide sufficient time once PRA approval is obtained for affected ETCs to comply with this requirement. Watch for future guidance.
  • RUS Loan Recipients / Annual Audit Report Filing:
    • April 1, 2012: Rate-of-return carriers that receive loans from the RUS can satisfy their financial reporting obligation by providing electronic copies of their annual RUS reports in lieu of an audited financial statement (and annually thereafter).


Senate Republicans Oust Ellen Anderson as PUC chair

From the Star Tribune

Minnesota Republicans took the rare step on January 30 of voting to remove an appointee of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. By a 37-29 party-line vote, Republicans voted against confirming Ellen Anderson, a former longtime member of the Senate, as Dayton's appointee to chair the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The vote means Anderson must leave the post. Dayton, angry at the vote and calling Republicans "too extreme to lead,' immediately hired Anderson as an energy advisor on his staff. He must now search for a new chair of the PUC.

Dayton appointed Anderson last March and she continued to serve while the Senate considered whether to confirm her. During her tenure as chair of the PUC, which regulates energy and telecommunications firms, Dayton said most of the votes were unanimous, and Anderson was rarely among those who dissented. But Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, chair of the Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee, said on the floor that Anderson has a career that showed she was hostile to "traditional energy sources.' "I do not take joy in opposing this nominee,' said Rosen. Supporters of Anderson, a DFLer who represented St. Paul in the Senate for 19 years, said she was a lawyer and an expert in energy and environmental issues who passed numerous energy bills with wide bipartisan support, including establishing the state's renewable energy standard. They suggested that the vote was "tit for tat" for times when the Senate was controlled by DFLers and twice removed appointees of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican.

Dayton lashed out at Republicans both in a news conference and in a private breakfast meeting earlier in the day. He said the action belied Republican statements that, following a scandal that required them to replace majority leaders, they would try harder to work with DFLers. Dayton said of 221 votes on the PUC, 204 were unanimous, Anderson only voted in the minority 6 out of 17 times.

He said the scandal and this action show that Republicans in the Senate are "unfit to govern the state.'

2012 Scholarship Application

The Minnesota Telecom Alliance Foundation is offering scholarships to high school seniors who graduate in 2012. Applicants must be customers of MTA Active Member companies. Each scholarship is in the amount of $2,000. Scholarships are awarded after the student demonstrates successful completion of the first year of college or technical school.

Download an application

Once completed, this application must be printed and submitted to your local telephone company manager by March 2, 2012. Please complete the application and print. Once you have completed and printed the form, include it with the rest of the information requested for the application process.

Interested in Serving on a MTA Committee?

The MTA Board of Directors approves committee appointments at the first Board meeting held after the Annual Convention in March. As part of the continuing effort by MTA staff to streamline internal processes, there is no longer an application to fill out to participate on a MTA committee. If you are interested in serving on a committee, please login to your MTA profile at www.mnta.org, click the edit button and scroll down to the list of committees. Select the committees you are interested in serving on. Your selected committees will be reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors. If you are currently on a committee and want to continue, you do not need to do anything. New committee terms begin 4/1/2012. Most committees are open to all who want to participate. A few, due to the nature of their work, have specific terms for individual members and membership categories. If you have any questions or want to know more about MTA Committee participation, feel free to contact MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen at bchristensen@mnta.org or 651-288-3723.

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Cold Weather and Keeping Warm

We have been enjoying the great weather this winter but we also know that there is more winter to come.  We cannot become complacent in thinking that the warm weather will continue, and after watching the weather channel, we are due for at least a couple days of cold temperatures starting today.  The Hennepin County Medical Center has some very good advice for us to enjoy winter time outdoor activities. 

Thousands of people suffer frostbite each winter. For some, it's a total loss of feeling in their fingers, for others it's worse. Here are some reminders to help you stay warm as you enjoy your time outside.  Did you know, frostbite is actually a type of burn? After the skin thaws, redness, swelling and blisters may appear similar to a traditional burn.

Stages of Frostbite

First Degree Frostbite:
A mild form of frostbite, where the skin turns red and feels really cold.

Second Degree Frostbite:
In this stage the reddened skin will turn white or very pale. Upon warming, blisters may appear. This results in some tissue and nerve damage.

Third Degree Frostbite:
Affecting all layers of skin, the area will turn black and hard as tissue dies.

Here are some simple tips all of us can use along with our families to enjoy the great outdoors during this winter season:

  • Dress in layers and keep your clothing dry
  • Wear mittens instead of gloves, fingers are warmer together
  • Drink responsibly in cold weather – alcohol creates a sensation of warmth, but it actually decreases core body temperature
  • Bundle up your kids, and monitor how long they're outside
  • On the very cold days limit your time outdoors
  • If you notice any symptoms, like tingling and burning, get out of the cold immediately

We hope these tips will help you enjoy the remainder of our winter, and we also hope we will see you at the Minnesota Telecom Alliance’s Annual Convention in Minneapolis March 26- 27.  Please stop by our booth and try your luck at sinking a putt, it is great to visit with you folks.

If we can be of any assistance to you please do not hesitate to give us a call at 612-219-4503.

Take care,
Dan Be
rg, M.S.
Lead Safety Consultant

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Finley Engineering Announces Upcoming Retirement of President/CEO

Finley Engineering, a leading end-to-end consulting engineering firm with interests in the telecommunications and utility industries, will undergo key management changes after the announcement that Rod Christenson, President and CEO will retire at the end of 2012. Mike Boehne, current Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, will assume the role of President and Chief Operating Officer, with responsibility for managing the day-to-day operations of the company.
Finley’s record growth over the past three years has secured client broadband and power engineering engagements with total project costs exceeding $250 million. "This record growth for Finley requires that we strategically plan our future, and I see no better candidate to help manage that growth than Mike Boehne,” said Christenson. "Our record of achievement has been extraordinary and is a direct result of our committed team.” Christenson will continue as CEO, directing the overall corporate functions of the company, until his retirement later this year.

"Rod has led our company through an unprecedented time, where demand for our engineering expertise has never been higher,” said Ken Knuth, Chairman of the Board of Finley Engineering.

"I’m honored to add to my responsibilities and help position Finley to succeed in enabling the smart broadband future of our valued communications and utility clients,” said Boehne. Finley will continue to service clients as usual during this seamless transition. Existing clients can contact their account representative with any questions.

Do you have an announcement for People & Companies? Send an e-mail to MTA at info@mnta.org or fax to 651-290-2266.

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© Copyright 2012
Minnesota Telecom Alliance
1000 Westgate Drive, Suite 252 | St. Paul, MN 55114-8679
www.mnta.org | Tel: 651-291-7311 | Fax: 651-290-2266 | Email: info@mnta.org