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PSC clarifies customer assistance program

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a request to clarify regulations around the Missouri Universal Service Fund (USF) this week. 

The commission suspended an assessment of the discount fund after Staff requested clarification on whether the service could be provided to users as part of a bundle if the customer also received support from the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP). The commission decreed that total monthly benefits could not exceed a customer’s bill and recommended an adjustment to ensure that standard during this week’s agenda meeting. 

An Evergy West customer filed a complaint alleging the company had incorrectly charged her over a 10 year period for a light pole destroyed in 2009. The customer urged the PSC to make Evergy refund her for the full decade plus interest, though she was refunded the maximum five-year amount allowed by commission rules. Evergy made a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the customer failed to state a claim, which the PSC denied along with the complaint.

The PSC also set a procedural schedule for a case involving the Empire District Electric Company’s application for approval of the portfolio for its transportation electrification pilot programs. The initiatives are designed to accelerate electric technology adoption for Empire customers and would run for a five-year pilot term. Virtual hearings over the case were scheduled for June.

Spire Missouri requested an extension to a waiver from commission rules due to COVID-19. The company was granted an initial waiver from rules requiring in-person surveys to identify distribution system leaks to accommodate social distancing recommendations last year. The waiver was subsequently extended through the end of March to coincide with Missouri’s state of emergency, and on Wednesday, the commission granted a further extension of the waiver through the end of July. Spire reported that 277 customers had refused in-person inspections due to health concerns over the past year. 

Additionally, the commission granted Socket Telecom designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier. It also expanded the designations of Mid-States Services LLC and United Services Inc., both of which recently received a federal Rural Development Opportunity Fund grant to expand service to increase broadband support in rural areas. 

The next PSC agenda meeting is scheduled for March 10. The commission plans to continue meeting remotely for the foreseeable future.