Report suggests changes in utility regulator

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A telecommunications consultant has recommended changes in the policies and procedures of the state agency that regulates utilities.

The 35-page report was prepared in just two weeks to meet a Jan. 30 deadline set by lawmakers during a special legislative session last summer. The consultant, Larry Darby, was paid $15,000.

The report advises lawmakers to change the guidelines under which the Regulatory Commission of Alaska resolves disputes over rates and tariffs; ease the regulations on Alaska Communications Systems Inc. to take into account General Communication Inc.'s increasing market share; and impose a six-month deadline for all RCA rulings.

During his research, Darby said he interviewed only the three members of what was intended to be a seven-member task force mandated by the Legislature.

''I would have been delighted to have had more time, and I think that the questions I addressed should be addressed further and in more detail,'' he said.

Dana Tindall, a senior vice president at GCI, called the report irrelevant.

''Obviously, they never talked to anybody. There was no public process,'' Tindall said.

Mary Anne Pease, vice president at ACS, said lawmakers should use the report as a baseline for making policy decisions about the RCA

The Legislature came to a stalemate last year over whether to keep the RCA alive when its charter expires this June. A special legislative session was held last June to resolve the fight.

In the end, the lawmakers extended the RCA's life by a year and called for a seven-member task force to perform a comprehensive review of the commission and report back by Jan. 30.

Three of the seven task force members were to be named by the Senate president, three by the House speaker and one by the governor.

As it turned out, only three people were appointed, and those were by then-Senate President Rick Halford on Dec. 15.

They were: Marv Weatherly, former head of the Alaska Public Utilities Commission, predecessor to the RCA; Jim Duncan, a former state senator and former state commissioner of administration; and George Gordon, a public utility official in Fairbanks, according to Halford.

The RCA regulates a broad range of services across the state from telecommunications and electric utilities to pipelines and trash-hauling companies.


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