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Extended Area Service (EAS) Hearings
 
What is a Community of Interest?
 
The concept of “Community of Interest” is central to the consideration of EAS requests. A “Community of Interest” exists where there is a strong social, economic, or political connection between two telephone exchanges.  The connection may arise from an interdependence between two areas, or where residents of one area rely heavily on another area for services and facilities necessary to meet many of their basic needs. 
 
Why does the Commission require a Community of Interest?
 
EAS is valuable to many customers because it expands their toll-free calling area.  EAS is nota cost-free service, however.  EAS merely changes the way telephone companies are compensated for interexchange telephone service.  Per-minute toll charges are replaced with a flat or measured EAS rate.  Large toll charges faced by a relatively small number of customers are replaced with smaller charges to many customers.  To recover lost toll-revenues, telephone companies may also be forced to increase basic exchange rates. 
 
The Community of Interest requirement provides the Commission some verification that a genuine and significant level of interest for expanded toll-free calling exists among customers in the petitioning exchange.  It also helps ensure that the EAS request is representative of more than just a small minority of customers.  This is important, because the implementation of a new EAS route affects all customers within the petitioning exchange, including low-volume customers who may not benefit from EAS conversion. 
 
What is an EAS Hearing?
 
An EAS hearing is a formal proceeding where you and other members of your community present evidence to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The ALJ, an attorney employed by the Commission, presides over the hearing in an impartial way, and recommends a decision to the Commission.  Representatives from your local telephone company may also appear at the hearing.
 
What happens at the hearing?
 
The hearing is generally divided into two parts.  The ALJ starts with an introductory presentation about the concept of EAS, the Commission’s EAS policies and standards, and the need for the hearing.  Next, members of the audience will be given the opportunity to present evidence that a community of interest exists between the petitioning and target telephone exchanges. 
 
Evidence can be oral (testimony) or written (documents).  In either case, it should be factual and specific.  Persons wanting to use documentary evidence should bring the original and copies to the hearing.  The ALJ may ask questions to provide the Commission with enough information to make a decision.   Everything that takes place at the hearing is either tape-recorded or recorded by a court reporter.
 
What type of evidence should be submitted?
 
The Commission has identified several factors it deems relevant in determining whether a community of interest exists between telephone exchanges.  These factors help define the nature of the communities and the need for EAS between them.  The petitioners need not present evidence on every factor.  Rather, the Commission will consider the information as a whole in making its determination.
 
These factors, and the type of information that might be presented, are as follows:
 
  1. Geographic and Demographic Information:  Describe your community to the Commission.  About how many people live in the area?  How do area residents earn a living?   Is there anything unique about your community?  What are its strengths and weaknesses?
  2. Location of schools:Do the children in your area attend schools located within the local calling area?  Are the local schools affiliated with other schools in the area? 
  3. Governmental and Jurisdictional Issues:Where does your community obtain governmental services?  Are there any county and state agency offices located in the local calling area?  Does your community have a local post-office?
  4. Emergency Services:Where does your community obtain emergency services, such as ambulance, police, and fire service?
  5. Social Services:  Does your community have locally available social services, such as church and other assistance groups?
  6. Medical and Dental Providers: Do any medical and dental providers practice in your area?  Does your community have a local hospital? 
  7. Employment and Commuting Patterns:Who is the largest employer in your area?  Do many residents commute outside the local calling area to work in larger communities?
  8. Business and Commercial dependence or interdependence:  Does your community provide local business and commercial facilities necessary to meet the basic needs of its residents?  Do local residents rely on other communities to obtain essential goods and services?  Tell the Commission where area residents obtain professional services, such as banking, insurance, and legal, as well as commercial and retail goods, such as groceries, hardware and building supplies, and other consumer items. 
  9. Transportation Patterns in and between the Communities:Is access to your community restricted?  Does an easily accessible highway link your community to a community listed on your EAS petition? 
  10. Other factors:No two communities in Oregon are identical.  Please provide any additional information not identified in the other factors that help establish a connection between your telephone exchange and the other telephone exchanges listed in your EAS petition. 
 
What other information will the Commission consider?
 
In addition to the information presented by the petitioners at the hearing, the Commission will consider any evidence presented by the telephone company.  The Commission will also ask the telephone companies serving all affected exchanges to provide calling pattern data between the exchanges listed in the EAS petition.  While this information will not capture all toll calling that is currently taking place between the exchanges, such as cellular traffic, the calling data will provide the Commission with some indication as to the amount of calling volume between the exchanges and the number of customers in the petitioning exchange making the long distance calls. 
 
As the lead petitioner, you will receive copies of any other evidence presented in this case and will have the opportunity to comment on it.
 
What is my role as Lead Petitioner?
 
When your community submitted the petition for EAS, you agreed to serve as the lead petitioner.  Because the community initiates these EAS requests, the Commission relies on the lead petitioner to ensure that the community members are kept informed of EAS proceedings, particularly with regard to the EAS hearing requirements.
 
The Commission will publish notice of the hearing in a local newspaper and will work with the local media to help inform area residents.  You should also try to help notify members of your community about the hearing and the type of evidence needed to support the petition.  It is not surprising that the level of community involvement has played a major role in the success of many EAS petitions.  The more the Commission knows about your community, the easier it is to determine whether or not a community of interest exists to warrant EAS implementation. 
 
The Commission encourages you to help make sure that information relating to the factors listed above is available and presented at the hearing.  Some lead petitioners have accomplished this by taking surveys of area residents to define their community’s need for goods and services located outside the local calling area.  Others have made sure that residents knowledgeable about the community attend and present evidence at the hearing.  In general, thorough and knowledgeable testimony on evidence relating to the factors above are more useful than anecdotal testimony about individual calling patterns and phone bills.
 
What happens after the hearing?
 
Based on all the evidence, the ALJ will prepare a recommended final order for the Commission’s consideration.  The Commission will review the order, and, on occasion, may change the ALJ’s recommendation. The Commission always issues the final order. You will receive a copy of the final order.
 
If the Commission concludes that your telephone exchange shares a community of interest with another telephone exchange, it will direct that your EAS petition proceed to tariff analysis with all the other successful EAS petitions.  In this consolidated review, which begins in August of each year, the phone companies submit proposed tariffs and cost studies for the new EAS routes.  The Commission will review the filings to make sure that the rates are reasonable and that the phone companies do not profit from the EAS conversion.  The Commission will also hold another hearing in your community to allow customers to comment on the proposed rates.
 
If you do not agree with the Commission’s order, you may ask the Commission to rehear the case or reconsider the decision.  This must be done within 60 days of the date of the order.  You also have the option of appealing the decision directly to the courts.  Appeals go first to the Circuit Court, then to the Court of Appeals, and then possibly to the Supreme Court.  A court appeal also must be made within 60 days of the final order.
 
What if I have questions before the hearing?
 
If you have any question about how to prepare for the hearing, please feel free to contact our Administrative Hearings Division at 503-378-6678.