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Regulatory Activities – Telephone – Significant Cases

Significant Cases – Telecommunications

PSC Case No 9270 and 9125 Verizon Free Directory Assistance Calls

Despite Verizon's determination to reduce the number of free directory assistance (DA) calls, OPC has been successful in our fight to maintain the four (4) free calls per month requirement.   Verizon has twice attempted to get PSC approval to reduce the number of free directory assistance calls from 4 to 2 calls per month. OPC has opposed Verizon both times and prevailed on behalf of consumers.

On July 13, 2010, the PSC granted OPC’s appeal and reversed a Hearing Examiner’s 2008 order approving Verizon’s request. Verizon implemented the 2 free call requirement despite OPC’s appeal and owes refunds to Verizon customers as a result.  In granting OPC's appeal, the PSC stated "[w}e are not swayed by unsupported claims and baseless predictions".  The PSC later denied Verizon's request for rehearing in December 2010.

Several months later in May 2011, Verizon filed the same request with the PSC.  OPC filed expert testimony again opposing Verizon's second attempt.  Hearings were held October 3 and 4, 2011, and a PSC Public Utility Judge ruled in favor of OPC.  Verizon has appealed the decision to the PSC, which ruled in OPC's favor. 

Maryland law has a specific law on directory assistance. Residential customers are entitled to at least 2 free DA calls per month. Local telephone companies may charge for additional DA calls ONLY if the PSC makes certain findings that the additional charges protect consumers, encourage competition and are in the public interest. On appeal, the PSC agreed with OPC that Verizon had failed to provide evidence to back up its proposal, stating “[w]e are not swayed by unsupported claims and baseless predictions.” The PSC also agreed that the Hearing Examiner was wrong to shift the burden of proof to OPC

As a result of the 9125 order, Verizon was required to refund, with interest, any fees collected from residential customers for the additional two DA calls per month.

For more information, see PSC Case 9270 and OPC's Brief, and PSC Case 9125.

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PSC Case No. 9265--Verizon 911 Outages

The PSC set up an inquiry into recurring 911 outages in Prince's George's and Montgomery Counties.  These outages were linked to certain Verizon equipment failures. The impact was compounded by Verizon’s failure to notify local emergency personnel that 911 calls were not being completed. OPC submitted comments at a PSC hearing. While a decision was pending, further 911 outage problems occurred. The PSC held another hearing on September 27, 2011 OPC has asked the PSC to impose a fine on Verizon for these failures.  A PSC decision is pending.  See PSC Case No. 9265.

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Verizon Cases – Global Order:

PSC No. 9072       Bundled Services (including local service)

PSC No. 9114        Service Performance and Service Quality

PSC No. 9120       Affiliate Relationships

PSC No. 9121        Local Calling Area Boundaries

PSC No. 9133       Appropriate Form of Regulating Telephone Companies

During the past three year the Public Service Commission (PSC) has docketed several cases related to Maryland’s major local telephone company, Verizon. These cases focused on the appropriate regulatory framework for telephone services, service quality, pricing of local telephone services, and consumer disclosure requirements.  Office of People’s Counsel (OPC) retained consultants with expertise in telecommunications issues to provide technical assistance, and expert testimony. Some of these cases, such as PSC No. 9072 – Bundled Services, were fully litigated and on appeal to the PSC or the appellate courts. In other cases, such as PSC No. 9114 – Service Performance and Service Quality and PSC No. 9133 – Form of Regulation of Telephone Companies, OPC and its witnesses examined data from the companies and filed expert testimony. After months of negotiation, OPC and other parties reached a global settlement of the issues in all of these cases in December 2008. After hearing testimony on the settlement, the PSC issued an order in April 2009. While the PSC did not approve the settlement as a whole, it did provide guidance for a modified settlement that it would find acceptable. Verizon submitted a unilateral offer of settlement in August 2009, and OPC submitted comments urging further modifications. The PSC issued an order in February 2010 indicating that it would accept Verizon’s offer subject to further modifications. Verizon has accepted the modifications, and the PSC order became final. The Communication Workers of American (CWA) has filed an appeal of the PSC order to the Baltimore City Circuit Court, where it is now pending.

The Commission order addresses many of the concerns identified in OPC’s testimony in these cases. The major issues resolved by the PSC order include:

  • A new price cap (AFOR) plan effective February 2, 2010
  • One year price freeze on basic telephone service rates for residential customers
  • Limit on increase in the price of basic telephone service until Verizon shows a measurable increase in service quality
  • Stricter service quality requirements, including customer credits in certain circumstances
  • Continued availability of regulated bundled services on a stand-alone basis for three years
  • Reduction in the cost of foreign exchange service (outside of local calling areas) from $14 to $4 per month
  • Enhanced customer notice and disclosure requirements for Verizon FIOS customers
  • Annual Operations Plan regarding compliance with service quality requirements

Verizon must continue to file monthly reports with the PSC Staff on compliance with the service quality rules, in addition to the annual operations plan.

Search PSC case file for PSC Case #9133 and the other cited cases

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