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An Introduction to Your Georgia Public Service Commission

"Safeguarding Your Interests"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
Calendar of Historical Events
Who Are the Past Commissioners?
Who Are the Commissioners?
What Is the Commission's Role and Responsibility?
Who Are the Commission's Senior Managers and What Do They Do?
What Is the Commission's Annual Budget?
What Is Regulated by the PSC?
Who Provides Electricity?
Who Provides Natural Gas Services?
Who Provides Telecommunications Services?
How Does the PSC Protect Georgia Citizens?
How Can Consumers Participate in the PSC Process?
How Does the Commission Decide a Rate Increase?
What Do All Those Terms Mean?
Where Else Is Help Available for Georgia's Citizens?
Introduction
In 1879, the Georgia General Assembly established the Railroad Commission of Georgia for the purpose of regulating railroad passenger and freight rates, services and operations. As Georgia's population grew and industry expanded, it was necessary for the Commission to grow as well. The Legislature, therefore, conferred upon the Commission additional regulatory responsibilities with periods of regulatory expansion and deregulation. In 1922, the Legislature changed the name of the Railroad Commission to the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to reflect the increasing variety of services and utilities included under the Commission's jurisdiction.
Today, five elected Commissioners, supported by approximately 100 staff, make decisions that affect the lives of every Georgian each time a telephone is picked up, a light is turned on, a gas burner is used.
Because the Public Service Commission's decisions affect how much people pay for such necessary services as their electricity, telephone and gas, its operational activities are constantly in the public eye. In fact, very few governmental agencies have as much impact on peoples' lives as does the PSC. That is why we have prepared this guide, "An Introduction To Your PSC," to help people better understand our important duties and responsibilities to both consumers and utilities in Georgia.
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Calendar of Historical Events Related to the Georgia Public Service Commission
1879 The Georgia General Assembly establishes the three member Georgia Railroad Commission
1891 Legislature extends authority of the Commission to regulate telegraph and express companies
1906 Legislation provides for statewide election of Commission members
1907 Legislature extends authority of the Commission to regulate telephone, gas, and electric utilities and expands the Commission to five members
1922 General Assembly changes the Commission's name, formerly known as the Railroad Commission, to the Georgia Public Service Commission
1943 Commission gains constitutional status
1950 PSC given the authority to issue certificates of public convenience and necessity to telephone companies
1970 Commission begins its gas pipeline safety program
1973 The Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act is implemented, assigning geographic areas to particular electric suppliers
1975 Legislature expands PSC's authority to set rates and enact rules for utilities and transportation; the Commission, with the exception of the Transportation Division, is brought under the Administrative Procedure Act
1984 PSC named the state's lead agency in administering the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program
1989 Commission given the power to supervise safety of the state's municipal gas systems
1991 Legislature requires integrated resource planning by electric utilities; the Commission must certify electric plants prior to construction.
1993 A new single-state registration system for motor carriers is established by the ICC effective January 1994
1995 The Telecommunications and Competition Development Act is effective July 1, 1995
1997 The Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act of 1997 is effective July 1, 1997
1998 Telecommunications Marketing Act of 1998 is effective July 1, 1998
1999 Atlanta Gas Light Company exits merchant function; customers who did not select a natural gas marketers were randomly assigned.
2000 David Burgess is first African-American elected to serve as a Commissioner
2001 The Consumer Bill of Rights amendment to the Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act of 1997 is effective April 28, 2001.
2002 The Natural Gas Consumers Relief Act becomes effective April 28, 2002. Earleen Sizemore takes office as the first woman on the Commission following her appointment by Governor Roy Barnes in June.
2003 Commissioner Angela Speir takes office as the first woman elected to the Commission.
2005 January 15- Commissioner Angela Speir becomes the first woman to chair the Commission; July 1- Commission resumes certification of motor carriers, household good movers, limousines and buses under HB 501 which reorganizes the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety.
2006 April 3- Commission approves "762" as new overlay area code in the 706 area code. Mandatory 10-digit dialing begins; June 1- Georgia Audible Universal Information Access Service becomes operational. August 18- The Commission approves acquisition of BellSouth Telecommunications by AT&T.
2009 Commission approves certification of two new units at Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant. These would be the first nuclear power units constructed in Georgia since 1989.
2011 July 1- The Commission turns over regulatory responsibility for the certification of motor carriers, household goods movers, limousines and buses to the Department of Public Safety under House Bill 865 which passed the 2012 Georgia General Assembly.
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Past Commissioners of the Georgia Public Service Commission (1922 - present)
and the Georgia Railroad Commission (1879 - 1922)
Governor James M. Smith (1879 - 1885) *
Campbell Wallace (1879 - 1890) *
Samuel Barnett (1879 - 1881)
Leander N. Trammell (1881 - 1900) *
Alexander S. Ervin (1885 - 1891)
James W. Robertson (1890 - 1891)
Virgil Powers (1891 - 1894)
Allen Fort (1891 - 1897)
G. Gunby Jordan (1894 - 1895);
(1901 - 1904)
Thomas C. Crenshaw, Jr. (1895 - 1901) *
Justice Spencer R. Atkinson (1897 - 1903) *
J. Pope Brown (1900 - 1905) *
Justice H. Warner Hill (1903 - 1911) *
Obadiah B. Stevens (1905 - 1911)
Governor Joseph M. Brown (1904 - 1907)
F. E. Callaway, Sr. (1907 - 1909)
George Hillyer (1907 - 1918)
S. G. McClendon (1907 - 1909) *
Charles Murphey Candler (1909 - 1922) *
Joseph F. Gray (1909 - 1916)
Paul B. Trammell (1911 - 1926) *
James A. Perry (1911 - 1933);
(1936 - 1957)
*
John T. Boifeuillet (1916 - 1926)
James D. Price (1919 - 1925)
Walter R. McDonald (1923 - 1933);
(1935 - 1971)
*
Calvin W. Parker (1926 - 1931)
Oscar Roswell Bennett (1925 - 1928)
Albert J. Woodruff (1926 - 1933)
Perry T. Knight (1928 - 1933); (1936 - 1953)
Justice Jule W. Felton, Sr. (1931 - 1933)
Jud P. Wilhoit (1933 - 1941) *
George L. Goode (1933 - 1935)
Thomas King Davis (1933 - 1936)
Ben T. Huiet (1933 - 1936)
James B. Daniel (1933 - 1935)
Julian J. E. Anderson (1935 - 1936)
Matt L. McWhorter (1937 - 1961) *
Allen Chappell (1941 - 1964)
Crawford L. Pilcher (1953 - 1972) *
Ben T. Wiggins (1957 - 1979) *
William Henry Kimbrough (1961 - 1979) *
Alpha Alsbury Fowler, Jr. (1964 - 1971)
Bobby Pafford (1971 - 1993) *
Ford B. Spinks (1971 - 1988) *
Mac Barber (1973 - 1984); (1991 - 1998) *
Billy Lovett, Jr. (1979 - 1990)
Jim Hammock (1980 - 1987)
Gary B. Andrews (1985 - 1990) *
Cas M. Robinson (1987 - 1992)
Robby Rowan (1989 - 1994)
Bob Durden (1991 - 2002) *
Dave Baker (1995 - 1998) *
Robert B. Baker (1993 - 2010) *
Stan Wise (1995 -        ) *
Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, Jr. (1998 - 2002) *
David L. Burgess (1999 - 2006) *
Earleen Sizemore (2002 - 2002)
H. Doug Everett (2003 -        ) *
Angela E. Speir (2003 - 2008) *
Chuck Eaton (2007 -        ) *
Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, Jr. (2009 -        ) *
Tim Echols (2011 -        ) *
* served as Chairman of the Commission
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Who are the Commissioners?
The five commissioners of the PSC are elected statewide and serve staggered six-year terms. The chairman is elected by the Commission for a two year term with the opportunity to be re-elected for an additional two year term.
Tim Echols (R-Bogart)
Tim Echols was elected to the Commission in the general election of November 2010 after spending 15 years in the non-profit sector. Echols founded "TeenPact" and grew the mock legislative youth program to 38 states in his tenure. He continues to serve on the Board of Directors.
Tim's campaign focused on consumer protection, clean energy, and accountability. He travels the state speaking to students, civic groups and businesses about the importance of the PSC's responsibilities especially providing accountability to those the agency regulates.
Commissioner Echols has been outspoken about Georgia's nuclear waste--still sitting on both sites. He supports a Heritage Foundation plan that would privatize the reprocessing and disposal of commercial nuclear "material." Believing if the space program can be privatized, then certainly nuclear waste disposition can too.
Tim has three degrees from the University of Georgia and still makes his home in the Athens area with his wife Windy and their seven children.
Chuck Eaton (R-Atlanta)
Chuck Eaton was elected to his first term on the Public Service Commission in December of 2006. He was one of only two statewide Republican candidates in the entire country to beat an incumbent during that election year. Before serving on the Commission, he worked in real estate sales. Prior to moving to Atlanta, he was an Account Executive for a packaging manufacturer in LaGrange, Georgia. Commissioner Eaton also has an Accounting degree from the University of Alabama.
He is the past President of the Buckhead Forest Civic Association. Chuck was also a representative to the Atlanta Neighborhood Planning Unit "B" - a citizen group which makes recommendations on zoning, land use, public safety and community issues. In Troup County he served on the Board of Directors for Troup Haven House - a children's shelter.
Commissioner Eaton has been involved in the political process for a long time. In 1992, he served as Congressman Phil Crane's Deputy Campaign Manager. In Troup County he successfully managed multiple campaigns for former Representative Jeff Brown. He is a graduate of the Coverdell Leadership Institute - a statewide organization founded by late U.S. Senator Paul D. Coverdell to strengthen leadership and political skills.
Chuck lives in Atlanta with his wife Erika, their newborn daughter Lydia and their three rescued dogs. When not working at the Public Service Commission, he enjoys playing golf, target shooting, and boating with his family on Lake Lanier.
The Eaton's are members of North Avenue Presbyterian Church.
H. Doug Everett (R-Albany)
A native of Cordele, Georgia, Commissioner Doug Everett is the first Republican elected to the Commission from Southwest Georgia. He was elected to the Georgia House from Albany in 1996 and served three terms before his election to the Commission in 2002. As a State Representative, he served on the House Industry Committee and the Subcommittee on Utilities.
Commissioner Everett was born in Cordele, Georgia but moved to Sylvester where he graduated from high school. He entered Georgia Tech but later transferred to Georgia Teachers College (now Georgia Southern University) and majored in math.
After moving to Albany, Commissioner Everett first worked for Albany First Federal Savings and Loan before starting his own business in 1974, Southern Appraisal Company that specializes in appraising large commercial and industrial properties. In 1980, he received his MAI appraisal, the highest appraisal designation one can receive.
Prior to serving as a legislator, Everett served on the Albany Zoning and Planning Board of Appeals, the Board of Tax Assessors and three terms on the Albany City Commission, including two years as Mayor Pro Tem.
Everett is married to Janice Perry Johnson of Montezuma. The couple has three grown children, Mitch, Mike and Denice Delk, and three grandchildren. Everett belongs to the Rotary Club and is a former member of the Sylvester JAYCEES and the Sylvester Kiwanis Club.
Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, Jr. (R-Clarkesville)
McDonald, who served 20 years as a state Representative, was appointed to the PSC by Governor Zell Miller to fill a vacated post and then re-elected in a special mid-term election in 1998. He held the seat until 2002. On December 2, 2008, Georgians elected McDonald to serve on the PSC again.
McDonald has a deep knowledge of the energy industry. During his previous term, he served on the Committee on Electricity of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, chairing that body's subcommittee on Nuclear Issues and Waste Disposal in 2001 and 2002. Today he is a member of NARUC's Electric Committee and Nuclear Subcommittee.
McDonald has spent decades serving the residents of Georgia. As a state Representative, he chaired the Industry Committee for five years and the Appropriations Committee for eight years. He also served as a commissioner in Jackson County, served on the Board of Managers of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, and volunteered as a Firefighter for the city of Commerce for 35 years.
A native of Commerce who now resides in Clarkesville, McDonald is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a BBA in Business. He has long been a supporter of higher education, serving on the Board of Governors of Mercer Medical College and the Board of the Advanced Technology Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also a director of the Small Business Development Center at the University of Georgia.
McDonald has lived his entire life within District Four of the PSC. Currently, he is a partner in L.W. McDonald & Son Funeral Home in Cumming, with his son, Lauren III. He was married to his late wife Sunny Nivens McDonald for 45 years. He is an elder in the Presbyterian Church, a private pilot, and an avid golfer.
Stan Wise (R-Marietta)
Stan Wise has served on the Commission since January 1995 and previously served as Commission Chairman in 1997, 1999 and 2006. He was first elected to public office as a Cobb County Commissioner in 1990 and had served the county as a member of the Cobb County Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals. Wise was a Board Member of the ten-county Atlanta Regional Commission from 1992-1994.
Stan has served his state as President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) in 2003-2004 furthering his responsibilities and interaction with Congress, Federal agencies, state officials, industry leaders, Wall Street, consumer groups and the news media. Stan has testified multiple times before Congress. Wise is a past President of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (SEARUC) and serves on the International Relations Committee and Gas Committee of NARUC. He is also on the Advisory Council for the New Mexico State University Center for Public Utilities. He is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Feed the Hungry Foundation.
His alma mater, Charleston Southern University, named Wise the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 2006. In addition, he was named the Bonbright Center of the Terry College of Business Honoree of the Year in 2005.
He has also served on the U.S. Department of Energy State Energy Advisory Board, the Cobb County Public Schools Educational Foundation, Inc., and the Board of Directors of the Cobb YMCA, the Boys Club of Cobb County and the Advisory Board of the North Georgia Law Enforcement Academy. He owned and operated an insurance business in Cobb County for twenty years. Wise was awarded his B.S. in Business Management from the Charleston Southern University in 1974. He also served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve for six years. He and his wife Denise have two grown children.
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What Is The Commission's Role And Responsibility?
The Georgia Public Service Commission has exclusive power to decide what are fair and reasonable rates for services under its jurisdiction. It must balance Georgia citizens' need for reliable services and reasonable rates with the need for utilities to earn a reasonable return on investment. The Commission protects consumers' interests while abiding by legal standards in setting rates. All matters scheduled for public hearing are heard by the Commissioners or in special cases, by an appointed hearing officer in open session.
In regulating rates, the Commission does not guarantee profits to service providers. It is the company's responsibility to make prudent, sound business decisions to produce earnings. When regulated companies bring a rate request before the PSC, it may be taken up first by one of the Commission's three standing committees on which the commissioners serve: Telecommunications, Energy, or Administrative Affairs.
Assisting the commissioners are experts on utility operations. These experts may provide testimony and make recommendations at rate, arbitration or other proceedings. To protect the public interest and to fulfill its responsibilities, the Commission may:
Conduct investigations, hearings, and gather evidence
Inspect properties, books and papers of regulated companies
Determine costs
Make and enforce rules
Issue orders giving effect to Commission decisions
Institute judicial proceedings to enforce orders, rules and regulations
Administrative sessions of the Georgia Public Service Commission are held the first and third Tuesday of each month in hearing room number 110 at 244 Washington St. in Atlanta.
Proceedings are open to the public.
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What Does The Commission's Staff Do?
The Administrative Division provides the internal support functions for the Commission. Functions include personnel management, financial management, scheduling and recording Commission proceedings, and public, media and legislative relations. The Utilities Division oversees the activities and services of providers regulated by the PSC and provide technical assistance and information to the Commission.
Executive Director: Deborah K. Flannagan
The Executive Director is the Commission's chief executive officer responsible for managing and coordinating the agency operations organzed into two divisions - Administration and Utilities.
Utilities Director: Tom Bond
The Utilities Division responsibilities are carried out organizationally through seven units: telecommunications, natural gas, electric, internal consultants, consumer affairs, legal and facilities protection. The Utilities Director oversees these units and ensures they carry out their assigned duties.
Fiscal and Budget Officer: Terry Pritchett
This Office is responsible for the fiscal, budgetary and procurement functions of the PSC; prepares and monitors the budget; and manages the facilities for the Commission.
Public Information Officer: Bill Edge
The Public Information Officer prepares press releases and media advisories, maintains the Commission's public information files, serves as a Commission spokesperson and acts as a legislative liaision with the General Assembly of Georgia. Responsibilities include managing the Commission's legislative agenda, providing technical assistance to the legislators, coordinating implementation of proposed legislation and assisting others involved in accomplishing the Commission's legislative goals.
Executive Secretary: Reece McAlister
The Executive Secretary is responsible for preparing, reviewing and co-signing Commission orders; maintaining agency records and certifying and recording copies of documents; and scheduling all hearings, oral arguments, administrative sessions and committee meetings.
Operations and Planning Director: Jada Brock-diPietro
The Operations Support section is responsible for all technology related agency operations. Operations Support Staff provides technology service and support for access to the agency internet website, agency databases, application development, desktop support service for agency personnel, electronic mail system, as well as agency audio broadcasts. Other responsibilities include recommending technology requests for review and approval from our agency Commissioners.
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What Is the Commission's Annual Budget?
The Commission’s 2015 fiscal year budget, which will go into effect on July 1, 2014, is allocated as follows:
Personal Services $8,326,295
Regular Operating Expenses $367,193
Motor Vehicle Purchases $0.0
Equipment Purchases $10,633
Real Estate Rentals $351,389
Contractual Services $134,511
Computer Charges $61,434
Telecommunications $105,787
TOTAL $9,357,242
The PSC’s 2015 budget includes $8,056,996 in State Funds, $1,300,246 in Federal Funds. Since 1922, the state has required utilities regulated by the PSC to pay a fee directly to the Department of Revenue. The total collections for fiscal year 2015 will be $1,050,000.
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What Is Regulated by the PSC?
Whether or not a utility is regulated by the PSC is determined by the type of service it provides and by whether the utility is owned by investors. The PSC regulates the rates charged and the services provided by most intrastate, investor-owned telecommunications, natural gas and electric utilities operating in Georgia and pipeline safety regulations. The Commission does not set rates for municipally-owned electric and gas utilities or electric membership corporations (EMCs). However, municipally-owned electric companies and EMCs must come before the Commission on some matters such as financing and the resolution of territorial disputes. The Commission also must solve territorial disputes for municipally owned gas companies as well as ensure the safety of all natural gas pipelines in the state. The three main kinds of utilities regulated by the PSC are electric, gas, and telecommunications.
Electric
Investor-owned electric power companies (1)
Electric membership corporations (42) (Territory and financing only)
Municipally-owned electric power companies (52) (Territory only)
Gas
Investor-owned natural gas companies (1)
Liquefied Natural Gas Plants (5) (Safety only)
Master meter operators (131) (Safety only)
Municipally-owned natural gas companies (84) (Safety and territory only)
Telecommunications
Alternate operator service providers (160)
Automatic dialing and announcement devices (115)
Pay Phone Service Providers (603)
Institutional telephone service providers (38)
Interexchange carriers (78)
Resellers (600)
Telephone companies (34)
Telephone service observing equipment users (338)
Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (221)
The Georgia Public Service Commission does not regulate:
Butane gas
Cable television
Cellular telephones
Long-distance telephone service
Propane gas
Sewer services
Water services
Interstate transportation
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Who Provides Electricity?
In Georgia, three types of electric suppliers serve the public --
Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs), municipalities and investor-owned power companies. Since the Commission regulates only investor-owned utilities, the only electric utility whose rates are set by the PSC is Georgia Power Company, the only investor-owned electric utility in the state. As an investor-owned company, Georgia Power pays taxes. Publicly-owned, non-profit utilities such as EMCs, which pay ad valorem and property taxes but no income taxes, and municipally-owned utilities, which pay no taxes at all, are regulated by their own boards of directors or other similar governing bodies and essentially are not subject to outside regulation. EMCs and municipalities serve the greatest area in Georgia. However, Georgia Power serves the most people. Georgia Power, in 2006, served more than 2 million people. In 1991, the Georgia Legislature enacted laws requiring integrated resource planning (IRP) by Georgia Power as well as certification by the PSC prior to any new construction of electric plants. The Public Service Commission approves Georgia Power's 20-year plans for providing power and encouraging conservation.
There are currently 42 EMCs providing service in Georgia. Of these, 39 formed a wholly owned subsidiary in 1974 called Oglethorpe Power Corporation (OPC), the nation's largest electric cooperative. Oglethorpe Power Corporation is the not for profit power supplier to these EMCs. OPC is directed by its member EMCs and two non-Georgia EMCs based in North Carolina and Florida that serve a number of Georgia customers. Originally, EMCs only bought power and distributed it to their members. Today, the EMCs, through contracts with independent power producers, are involved in the generation and transmission of electricity. These 39 EMCs and OPC serve over 70% of the land area of Georgia and approximately 1.3 million customers. The PSC's limited regulatory jurisdiction over the EMCs includes resolution of territorial matters and approval authority over applications for financing.
Fifty-two Georgia cities provide electric service to their customers but do not come under PSC jurisdiction except that they are required to file their rates with the Commission and in territorial matters. Forty-seven of these cities and Crisp County are members of the Municipal Electric Association of Georgia (MEAG). The cities of Acworth and Hampton are wholesale customers of MEAG and Georgia Power, respectively. The city of Dalton owns its own generation and transmission facilities.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) serves the three EMCs that are not part of Oglethorpe Power Corporation and are located in North Georgia. In northwest Georgia, TVA, through the city of Chickamauga and the Electrical Board of Chattanooga serves customers in this state. The legal boundaries of each electric utility are assigned under the Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act. The PSC is responsible for enforcing this law and resolving territorial disputes.
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Who Provides Natural Gas Service?
Today there is one investor-owned natural gas distribution company regulated by the Georgia Public Service Commission over which it has safety and rate jurisdiction: Atmos Energy Company. Atmos Energy Company provides service in the Columbus and Gainesville areas. The Commission regulates the pipeline and distribution charges of Atlanta Gas Light which distributes gas on behalf of natural gas marketers as part of the 1997 Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act.
Another source for in-state natural gas service is through one of 84 municipal systems. The PSC has gas safety jurisdiction over municipal systems -- and two intrastate transmission lines -- but does not regulate rates or services of municipally-owned systems. When municipal gas service is offered outside county limits, the PSC has rate and territorial jurisdiction.
Today the PSC has authority over nearly 36,000 miles of gas distribution and transmission lines. These systems transport more than one-third of Georgia's natural gas supply for two million people. Natural gas service is certified in 90 percent of the counties in Georgia. A gas system (a municipal or investor-owned system) must apply for and receive a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the PSC before it can expand into a new area.
Implementation of deregulation has changed the Natural Gas Industry in Georgia from a regulated monopoly to a competitive marketplace. Marketers provide gas service to residential customers, normally served only by investor-owned utilities or municipalities. Legislation approved in the 2001 General Assembly will allow the Commission to enforce strict billing requirements on the marketers as well as allow the Commission to provide low-income assistance from the Universal Service Fund.
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Who Provides Telecommunications Services?
Telephone service regulation was added to the Commission's responsibilities in 1907. In 1950, the legislature gave the PSC the power to mandate telephone service in areas of the state that needed it. By giving the Commission this authority, the lawmakers made clear the state's intent to provide all citizens with at least a minimal level of telephone service. However, passage of the Telecommunications and Competition Development Act of 1995 (Senate Bill 137) significantly changed the Commission's regulatory responsibilities. Instead of setting prices for telecommunications services, the PSC now manages and facilitates the transition to competitive markets, establishes and administers a universal access fund to assure reasonable access to services, monitors rates and service quality, and mediates disputes between competitors.
There are 34 telephone companies providing local service in the state. Thirty are investor-owned, such as Southern Bell, and four are non-profit cooperatives owned by subscribers. As of December 31, 1996, the Commission had certificated 223 competitive local exchange providers. The PSC regulates 516 providers of long distance services. This includes 21 Interexchange carriers such as AT&T, MCI and Sprint, and 366 resellers of long distance service and 123 providers of alternative operator services.
Innovation in technology has led to a variety of communication services that are regulated by the PSC. There are 263 regulated telephone service observing equipment users in the state and 108 authorized users of automatic dialing and announcement devices. Customer-owned coin-operated telephone service (pay phones) in Georgia is provided by 517 certified individuals and companies and 30 institutional telephone service providers regulated by the PSC. As of December 31, 2000, there were 1262 telephone service providers and 371 users of automatic dialing and announcement devices and telephone service observing equipment regulated by the PSC.
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How Does the PSC Protect Georgia Citizens?
In thousands of instances each year, the Georgia Public Service Commission is the last hope of many Georgia consumers in resolving their problems with utilities regulated by the Commission. In total, Consumer Affairs handled 99,962 citizen contacts in 2000. The contacts included consumer complaints and questions, media inquiries, requests for information and assistance, consumer comments regarding issues before the Commission, and all incoming calls made on the Commission's toll-free and local telephone lines. There was a 30.6 percent increase in consumer complaints handled in 2000 as compared to 1999-1996. Staff is trained to investigate and resolve disputes between utility companies and their customers.
Some utilities, such as telephone and gas, are becoming more competitive and the PSC is establishing rules that allow utility companies to operate more freely while empowering consumers with the right information to make wise decisions. The PSC also provides informational materials to help educate consumers about recent changes in utility services.
Divisions of the PSC also protect Georgia consumers by ensuring that adequate, reliable service is provided and by enforcing Commission rules and regulations. The following are examples of how the PSC protects Georgia's consumers. Figures cited are for 2000.
The Utilities Division inspected 1,250 customer-owned coin-operated telephones in the state in 2000. The Pipeline Safety Unit spent 1,120 man days either conducting safety inspections or providing pipeline operators throughout the state with on-going training regarding federal safety standards.
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How Can Consumers Participate in the PSC Process?
The Public Service Commission provides many avenues for Georgia's residents to participate in the process of regulating utilities. All hearings, administrative sessions and committee meetings of the PSC are open to the public. The PSC's dockets of pending and closed cases are available to the public.
Administrative sessions of the PSC are held the first and third Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. at the Commission's offices in Atlanta. Committee meetings are scheduled the on second and fourth Thursday of each month preceding the Administrative session. Public hearings usually are scheduled regularly. Consumers can call the PSC or obtain the schedule for hearings, administrative sessions and committee meetings on the internet at http://www.psc.state.ga.us. The number of days scheduled for a hearing depends upon the complexity of the issue. Rate case hearings usually require an average of nine days.
Hearings and investigations may be conducted at the PSC offices, or in another part of the state if that is more convenient for the public. Notices of public hearings are published by the utility in newspapers in the affected areas. Utilities and docketed matters are available at the PSC offices in Atlanta or electronically via the above Internet address. Although documents may be read at state offices, there is a small fee for copying them. It is helpful, but not necessary, to know the docket number in advance.
Though the Consumers' Utility Counsel represents the State's residential and small commercial and industrial consumers in proceedings before the PSC, individual consumers may also participate. On the first day of a proceeding, any interested individual may sign up to provide an oral or written statement of his/her position on an issue before the commissioners. Consumers may also attend committee meetings and present their concerns.
A consumer may inform the commissioners of his or her position on an issue by writing or calling the PSC or by submitting a petition. A consumer who wishes to personally present his/her position on a matter may ask the Executive Secretary's office to schedule the matter with the appropriate Committee Chairman. Mailing addresses are PSC, 244 Washington St., SW, Atlanta, GA 30334. Telephone numbers for the Commission are (404) 656-4501 and toll-free 1-800-282-5813.
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How Does the Commission Decide a Rate Case?
The Georgia Public Service Commission approves or denies requests for changes in rates for rate of return regulated companies by examining petitions submitted by the utilities it regulates. Please note, however, that not all utilities regulated by the Commission are rate of return regulated. Currently, Georgia Power Company, Atmos Energy, and 8 of Georgia's small rural local telephone companies are rate of return regulated.
When a request is brought before the PSC, it may be taken up first by one of two standing committees: Telecommunications or Energy. Here is a simplified explanation of utility rate case procedures. Non-rate issues follow an abbreviated version of this process.
The Utility Files Its Petition
The utility requesting a rate increase first serves a public notice of intent. It then files a rate case petition with all supporting data, including a request for the proposed rates to take effect in 30 days. The Commission studies the utility's petition and sets a hearing date.
PSC Studies the Petition
By law, the proposed new rates go into effect 30 days from the filing date, unless the commissioners vote to suspend them. Normally, the commissioners order a five-month suspension of the proposed rate so the staff can study all data submitted by the utility. At this time, the Commission may designate its adversary/advisory staff. During a rate case, the Commission's designated adversary staff is considered separate from the five elected commissioners. The adversary staff puts on its own case, usually opposing the utility's request. The adversary staff's attorney cross-examines utility witnesses.
A separate staff advisory team is designated to answer commissioners' questions and to support them. The adversary staff prosecutes the case. Also, the Consumers' Utility Counsel (CUC) represents residential and small commercial consumers in the rate case procedure. The utility publishes a notice of hearing in newspapers of general circulation in its service area. This is done 30 to 60 days after the filing. The PSC issues a scheduling order and may hold a pre-hearing conference with all interested parties. The Commission staff can request any additional information it needs on the rate request, and the utility provides it.
Interested Parties Intervene
For 30 days following the first published notice of the proceedings, requests to intervene are considered by the Commission. The Commission grants the requests either at the pre-hearing conference or on the first day of the hearing. The intervenors can request information from the utility, which it must provide. The Commission staff and other intervenors begin their investigations. Adversary staff activities may include hiring consultants, taking depositions from witnesses, limited auditing of selected utility records and gathering other data.
Formal Rate Hearings Conducted
The utility presents its case at a public hearing conducted by the commissioners within 90 to 120 days after the initial filing. These hearings generally last from three to five days.
Public witnesses usually present their testimony the first day. All witnesses are subject to cross-examination by the adversary staff and other intervenors.
The advisory staff completes its review and develops the Commission position on various elements in the case. Both the advisory staff and intervenors pre-file testimony and exhibits.
The adversary staff does not take an official position until it is ready to pre-file its own testimony. The adversary staff makes an independent recommendation on rates 10 days before the hearing date.
A second set of public hearings, 120 to 165 days after the initial filing, is held for the staff and other Intervenors to present their case and to be cross-examined by the utility.
The utility files rebuttal testimony 10 days before a third set of public hearings. At those hearings, the utility presents its rebuttal to the staff's and other intervenors' findings.
This set of public hearings is held 160 to 165 days after the initial filing. During this set of hearings, the Commission Staff and other intervenors cross-examine the utility.
Commission Issues Rate Order
The Commissioners take the case under advisement following the third set of public hearings. All parties involved -- the utility, Commissioners, Commission Staff, and intervenors -- review the transcript and records of the hearings and file recommendations, a proposed order, briefs, etc.
At a subsequent administrative session, held the first and third Tuesday of each month, or at a special called meeting, the commissioners decide what, if any, rate increases to grant and when the utility can put the new rates into effect. The commissioners must make this decision within six months of the original filing date or the utility is legally entitled to 100 per cent of its request, under bond and subject to refund.
After a decision on the rate case, the Commission issues an interim and/or final order. The new rates go into effect 165 to 180 days after the initial filing of the rate change request. The utility may ask the Commission to reconsider its decision within 10 days after the order. The utility may appeal the Commission's decision to the Fulton County Superior Court within 30 days after the final order. Also, the intervenors may request a rehearing and/or appeal the Commission's decision to the courts.
Commission Responsibility
In making its decisions, the Georgia Public Service Commission has a duty to balance the service needs of Georgia's residents with the financial needs of the utility. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that rates must permit the utility to earn a return comparable to that of enterprises involving similar risk, to preserve the financial integrity of the company and to allow the company to attract investors.
The Georgia Public Service Commission requires regulated utilities to provide adequate service at fair and reasonable rates and to treat all customers equitably.
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What Do Those Terms Mean?
Here is a glossary of terms, phrases and acronyms used by the Georgia Public Service Commission.
Access Fees -

Access Fees are levied by a local telephone company for the availability and use of its local exchange facilities for original and temporary use of its interexchange calls.

ADAD -

An Automatic Dialing and Announcement Device is used primarily by business to place computer-generated calls and prerecorded messages for the purpose of advertising goods, services or property that is for lease or sale. Any person or organization who wishes to use ADAD equipment in the state of Georgia must obtain a permit form the PSC and pay a fee of $100.

ALEC -

An Alternative Local Exchange Carrier is a local telephone company.

AOS -

Alternative Operator Services have their own telephone operators and resell telecommunications services.

Caller ID -

Caller Identification is a telephone feature that displays the calling party's number before the call is answered.

Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity -

A Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity is a document issued by the Commission which designates the authority the bearer has been issued by the PSC to provide certain utility or transportation services in Georgia (i.e. the construction, acquisition and/or operation of a telephone line, plant or system).

COCOT -

Customer Owned Coin-Operated Telephone (pay phone)

Commission -

Georgia Public Service Commission

Consumers Utility Counsel - (no longer funded)

The Counsel is appointed by the Administrator, Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs and is authorized to appear at all proceedings involving utility rates and services before the PSC or any other state or federal agency. The office of the Consumers' Utility Counsel was established by the Georgia Legislature in 1975. In 1995, the office became an operating Division of the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs. It functions separately from the Georgia Public Service Commission to represent the interests of residential and small business and commercial consumers in matters concerning the state's regulated utilities. Counsel staff works with the Commission to assure consumers' rights to fair and nondiscriminatory utility and transportation rates and services. The CUC enjoys the same access as commissioners and staff to all Commission records, files, reports and documents.

CLEC -

Competitive Local Exchange Carrier is a competing local telephone company.

CUC - (no longer funded)

The Consumers' Utility Counsel

DLTM -

Distance Learning and Telemedicine is a long-distance medical and education program linking rural Georgia with specialists in urban areas.

Docket -

In the Utilities Division, each new case which is filed requesting a change by a utility is assigned a number and then becomes a docket.

DOT -

Department of Transportation

EAS -

Extended Area Service is an arrangement that allows telephone customers to call either nearby or multiple exchanges without paying long-distance charges.

EMCs -

Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs) are corporations composed of state electric cooperatives and are governed by a board of directors. The board is usually made up of one representative and one alternate from each member cooperative.

FCC -

Federal Communications Commission

FHWA -

Federal Highway Administration

FY -

Fiscal Year

ILEC -

An Independent Local Exchange Carrier is a local telephone company

IntraLATA -

Local access and transport areas (LATAs) refer to in-state geographical areas in which Southern Bell can provide long distance telephone services.

Interstate -

Between states

Intrastate -

Within the state

IPP -

An Independent Power Producer supplies retail customers with electricity from plants not directly owned and operated by a utility. IPPs include non-utility generators and exempt wholesale generators.

IRP -

Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) is a long-range, 20-year plan of how best to meet future power needs and encourage energy conservation.

ITS -

Institutional Telecommunications Services are private telecommunication companies that provide pay phones to institutions.

IXC -

Interexchange carriers are providers which carry long distance telephone traffic, for example AT&T, MCI and Sprint.

LATA -

Local Access and Transport Area refers to the service area of the local telephone company. Calls placed to a point outside of this area are handled by an interexchange carrier.

LD Carrier -

Long Distance Carrier

LEC -

Local exchange company for telephone service

Lifeline -

The Lifeline Assistance Program provides subsidized assistance to qualifying residential subscribers by providing monthly credits to residential local service.

Link-Up Georgia -

A program to provide subsidized assistance for residential telephone service to qualifying Georgians

LNG -

Liquefied Natural Gas

Mobile Agency Services -

Examples of "mobile agency services" include ordering railroad cars for shippers and handling cargo damage complaints. These services are performed by railroad personnel referred to as "mobile agents."

N11 -

The generic term for a three-digit telephone number assigned for special services

OLEC -

An Other Local Exchange Carrier is a local telephone company

PSC -

Georgia Public Service Commission

Resellers -

Carriers which resell long distance telecommunication services

Rule NISI Order -

Under a Rule NISI order, a company must "show cause" as to why it should not be fined or have its certificate revoked when charged with violating a Commission rule or regulation.

SAFETYNET -

A nationwide automated information management system for monitoring the safety performance of inter- and intra-state commercial motor carriers.

SEPCO -

Savannah Electric & Power Company

Slamming -

switching of a customer's local or long distance carrier without proper authorization

Tariff -

A list of fees, rates, services and company rules and regulations

TRS -

Telecommunication Relay Service through which communication personnel assist speech and hearing-impaired individuals with placing calls via a "Text Telephone" (TT).

TSOE -

Telephone Service Observing Equipment is a device attached to a telephone that allows calls to be monitored. TVA: Tennessee Valley Authority, [a provider of electricity in northwest Georgia

UAF -

Universal Access Fund is a fund established by O.C.G.A. 46-5-167 and administered by the Commission designed to offset reductions in access fees charged by Local Exchange Companies reducing the need for them to increase local telephone rates.

USF -

Universal Service Fund is a fund established by a regulatory body for the purpose of collecting and disbursing funds for the continued preservation of a utility service while maximizing penetration of that service.

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Where Else Is Help Available for Georgia's Citizens?
Name Number Website
AGL Gas Leaks 770.907.4231;
Customer Service 877.427.4321
http://www.atlantagaslight.com
AT&T Customer Service 800.222.0300 http://www.att.com
Atmos Energy (United Cities Gas) Customer Service 888.824.3434 http://www.atmosenergy.com
BellSouth Telecommunications Customer Service 888.757.6500 http://www.bellsouth.com
Better Business Bureau (Atlanta) 404.688.4910 http://www.bbb.org
Cable TV Association 404.252.4371 http://www.gacable.com
Clark Howard Radio Show 404.872.0750 http://www.clarkhoward.com
Consumer's Utility Counsel 404.656.3982
Fax: 404.651.9394
Energy Assistance Program 404.657.9358 http://www.dhr.georgia.gov
FCC Cable 202.416.0856 http://www.fcc.gov
FCC Cellular, Wireless, Pagers 202.418.0579 http://www.fcc.gov
FCC Radio/TV Broadcast 202.418.1430 http://www.fcc.gov
Federal Communications Commission 888.225.5322 http://www.fcc.gov
Federal Trade Commission 877.382.4357 http://www.ftc.gov
Georgia Electric Membership Corp. 888.896.5997 http://www.opc.com
Georgia No Call List (enforcement) 800.805.7544 or
404.657.7544
http://www2.state.ga.us/gaoca/
brotNoCall.htm
Georgia Power Company Customer Service 888.660.5890 http://www.georgiapower.com
Georgia Power's Energy Hotline 888.660.5890 http://www.georgiapower.com
Georgia Propane Gas Association 404.645.8677 www.georgiapropane.org
Georgia Telephone Association 404.321.5368 http://www.gta.org
Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs (complaints) 800.869.1123 or
404.651.8600
http://www.consumer.ga.gov
MCI Customer Service 800.444.3333 http://www.mci.com
Metro Fair Housing 404.765.3940
Fax: 404.765.3986
No Website
Senior Employment Program 404.762.9500 Email: ncbaga@earthlink.net
State of Georgia Information (Governmental Agencies) 404.656.2000 http://www.georgia.gov
U.S. Sprint Customer Service 800.877.4646 http://www.sprint.com
United Way 404.614.1027 or
770.614.1000
http://www.unitedwayatlanta.org
Utility Protection Center 800.282.7411 or
404.325.5000
http://www.gaupc.com
Yellow Pages 770.491.1750 http://www.realyellowpages.com
The PSC does not regulate butane or propane gas service. Contact the company from which you buy your gas.
Your electricity may be provided by your city or an electric membership corporation (EMC). Contact your city or local EMC for help.
Your gas service may be provided by your city. Contact your city for assistance.
The PSC does not regulate any water or sewer services. Contact your local city or county government for help with water and sewer problems. If your community has a separate authority for these services, contact that authority.
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