State Orders Landline Companies To Preserve Access During Outages; Then Orders SCE To Buy Enough Power For Peak Summer Use

Written by on February 12, 2021

Landline telephone companies will have 18 months to comply with a new state law … to keep their systems functioning for 72 hours after the electric power goes out.

The California Public Utilities Commission yesterday voted to extend that requirement to companies that provide landline service … either old fashioned phones or voice over internet.

Most people use cellphones these days … but the same lines that deliver landline phone service also deliver Internet service to WiFi routers.

And old fashioned landlines are still critical safety devices … CPUC commissioner Clifford Rechtshaffen said at yesterday’s CPUC meeting.


“One in every five 9-11 calls is still made using a wirelines device..

“Wireline customers are often concentrated in rural areas … hard to reach areas.

“They lack access to wireless services.

“They are often the most vulnerable communities during emergencies.

“So that underscores the importance of what we are doing.”

In Malibu ... there are two companies that provide landline service … Frontier through its FioS lines … and Charter through its lines … marketed as the Spectrum Internet service.

Frontier-Fios already has backup batteries and generators … inherited from the old telephone company facilitiers and the investiment in fiber optic lines leading to customers.

But Charter-Spectrum has a big problem complying with the rule.

it’s system is based on coax trunk lines … they need electricity inserted every quarter mile or so … and when Southern California Edison has an outage … some sort of generator needs to be installed.

Batteries cannot practically last 72 hours.

Portable gas generators … lots of them … are the only cheap answer.

Solar and batteries are also possible … but a lot more expensive.

The strengthened landline requirements follow similar 72-hour backup power requirements the commission imposed on wireless companies operating in high-fire-risk areas in July.

Wireless companies, which have a year to comply, have appealed that order.

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The CPUC also took action yesterday to require Southern California Edison to buy enough electricity to keep the lights on if we get a heat wave this summer.

Duh … you might say.

But the state has not in the past required SCE to do that.

The power company every year takes a gamble on how much power it needs.

Last summer … it lost the gamble … and parts of Edison service areas were blacked out.

California regulators moved yesterday to avoid a repeat of last summer’s rolling blackouts by directing utilities to secure more energy capacity, an effort that some environmentalists fear will rely too much on fossil fuels.

The California Public Utilities Commission told the state’s three largest investor-owned electric companies, including SCE, to seek additional contracts for power that will be available by this summer.

To meet the mandate … Southern California Edison can upgrade existing power plants … keep older power plants online rather than retire them … and use batteries.

The problem is … those older facilities are outdated and generate significant smog and greenhouse gas.

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