DE 98-048
               Investigation Into Public Interest Pay Phones
           Order Establishing Procedural Schedule and Extending
          Time Limits For Intervention and Preliminary Statements
                                of Position
                         O R D E R   N O.  22,940
                               May 18, 1998
         On April 10, 1998, the Public Utilities Commission
     (Commission) issued an Order of Notice in this matter and
     opened this docket to investigate, pursuant to   Section
     276(b)(2) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Tact),
     whether public interest pay phones should be maintained in
     New Hampshire and, if so, to ensure that such public
     interest pay phones are funded fairly and equitably.  
         The TAct defined a public interest payphone as a
     payphone which 1) fulfills a public policy objective in
     health, safety, or public welfare, 2) is not provided for a
     location provider with an existing contract for the
     provision of a payphone, and 3) would not otherwise exist as
     a result of the operation of the competitive marketplace.  
         The Federal Communication Commission (FCC)
     directed each state to evaluate by October 7, 1998 whether
     it needs to take any measures to ensure that pay phones
     serving important public interests will continue to exist in
     light of the elimination of subsidies and other competitive
     provisions established pursuant to 276. 
         The FCC also determined that the states should
     administer and fund public interest payphone programs in a
     manner that is competitively neutral, and which fairly and
     equitably compensates entities providing public interest pay
     phones.  States have discretion on how to fund their public
     interest pay phone programs, so long as the funding
     mechanism 1) fairly and equitably distributes the costs of
     such a program, and 2) does not involve the use of the
     subsidies prohibited by 276(b)(1)(B) of the Tact.  
         The Order of Notice set forth certain issues which
     are raised by this docket, scheduled a prehearing conference
     for May 5, 1998, required publication of the Order of Notice
     no later than April 15, 1998, required the parties to
     summarize their positions for the record and set deadlines
     for intervention and objections thereto.  
         The Order of Notice was published in the
     Manchester Union Leader on April 22, 1998, 7 days later than
     required in the Order of Notice.  The prehearing conference
     was held on May 5, 1998.  Motions to intervene were filed by
     Union Telephone Company, certain Independent Telephone
     companies (Independent Telephone Companies), the New England
     Public Communications Council, Inc. (NEPCC) and New
     Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA), each detailing the basis
     of their interest in the subject matter of the docket.  
         At the prehearing conference on May 5, 1998, the
     parties in attendance discussed a procedural schedule and
     collectively proposed a schedule as follows:
                             PUC Press Release to be Issued
       June 15, 1998 1:30 pm      Public Hearing
       July 15, 1998              Written Comments Filed by all                          Parties/Staff
       July 28, 1998              Discussion/Technical Session
                             Community Action Groups
       August 18, 1998            Written Recommendations and
                             Reply Comments By All
       August 26, 1998            Settlement Discussions, 10:00
       September 22-23, 1998      Hearings, 10:00 A.M.
         We find the proposed procedural schedule to be
     reasonable and, barring any change which occurs as a result
     of late requests for intervention, statements of position or
     comments on the procedural schedule, as provided below, we
     will order this schedule for the duration of the proceeding.
         At the prehearing conference the parties attending
     stated for the record their preliminary positions.
         By way of stating its preliminary position at the
     prehearing conference, Bell Atlantic-NH (Bell Atlantic)
     contended that there were limited situations where phones
     would not be economically self sufficient and that often
     those locations would be part of a profitable group of pay
     phone locations controlled by a city or town.  Bell Atlantic
     suggested that public interest pay phone service could be
     provided on a competitive bid process basis but that it was
     unclear whether a need existed for such pay phones since
     there has been only a fairly brief period of time under
     deregulated pay phone service to assess such a need.  
         NEPCC stated that deregulation was new to the pay
     phone world and that there was limited experience at which
     to look.
              Certain independent telephone companies stated
     that there was limited experience with deregulation and the
     receipt of compensation.  The companies had not formulated a
     specific position and they were interested in hearing from
     public interest groups affected, in investigating a
     compensation mechanism and in looking at the competitive
     viability of phones in these locations.     
         NHLA stated an interest in access to phone use by
     low income clients, especially those clients in the
     northern, rural parts of the state and those who needed
     affordable phone service.  Specific locations were important
     and possible removal of phones a concern to its clientele. 
         Union Telephone stated no position.     
         The Office of Consumer Advocate shared the
     concerns of the other parties and was interested in an
     analysis of whether health, safety or public interest policy
     objectives were involved in pay phone locations.  The OCA
     did not currently have information regarding whether there
     should be public interest pay phones but stated that other
     low-income advocates were interested in the issue.
         The Commission Staff (Staff) was interested in
     investigating the positions taken in other states and
     indicated that further research and input of community
     action groups in NH was necessary.  Staff indicated that it
     took no position and did not make a specific recommendation
     at this time.
         The OCA provided a copy of a letter, which was
     also  sent directly to the Commission, from the New
     Hampshire Coalition for the Homeless.  In that letter, the
     Coalition indicates that it received notice too late to
     intervene, but nonetheless comments that homeless people
     throughout the state rely on pay phones in many aspects of
     their lives, and that being able to petition for a pay phone
     location would be beneficial to this group.
         Because of the delay in publishing the Order of
     Notice, the deadline for submitting motions for intervention
     shall be extended to June 5, 1998.  Parties who request late
     intervention shall be permitted to file comments on or
     before June 5, 1998 concerning the procedural schedule as
     ordered herein and may submit as well a written statement of
     their preliminary position regarding the docket.  Objections
     to late motions to intervene shall be filed on or before
     June 10, 1998.
         Based upon the foregoing, it is hereby
         ORDERED, that unless otherwise ordered following
     the Public Hearing scheduled for June 15, 1998, the
     procedural schedule as set forth above is adopted for the
     duration of the case; and it is
         FURTHER ORDERED, that the petitions to intervene
     filed by Union Telephone Company, certain Independent
     Telephone Companies, the New England Public Communications
     Council, Inc. and New Hampshire Legal Assistance are
         FURTHER ORDERED, that pursuant to N.H. Admin.
     Rules Puc 203.01, the Executive Director of the Commission
     shall notify all persons desiring to intervene in this
     matter by publishing a copy of this Order no later than May
     22, 1998, in a newspaper with statewide circulation; and it
         FURTHER ORDERED, that pursuant to N.H. Admin.
     Rules Puc 203.02, any party seeking to intervene in this
     proceeding who has not previously intervened shall submit to
     the Commission an original and eight copies of a Petition to
     Intervene with copies sent to the Office of the Consumer
     Advocate on or before June 5, 1998, such Petition stating
     the facts demonstrating how its rights, duties, privileges,
     immunities or other substantial interests may be affected by
     the proceeding, as required by N.H. Admin. Rule Puc 203.02
     and RSA 541-A:32,I(b); and it is
         FURTHER ORDERED, that any party seeking to
     intervene on or before June 5, 1998 may file with its
     petition to intervene, a written preliminary statement of
     its position regarding the subject matter of the docket and
     any comment it would like considered regarding the
     procedural schedule as agreed to by the parties attending
     the prehearing conference on May 5, 1998 and as set forth
     above; and it is
         FURTHER ORDERED, that any party objecting to a
     late Petition to Intervene make said Objection by filing an
     original and 8 copies thereof, with a copy provided to the
     Office of Consumer Advocate, on or before June 10, 1998. 
         By order of the Public Utilities Commission of New
     Hampshire this eighteenth day of May, 1998.
        Douglas L. Patch    Bruce B. Ellsworth          Susan S.
            Chairman           Commissioner                  Commissioner
     Attested by:
     Claire D. DiCicco
     Assistant Secretary