OPC’s primary responsibility is to represent the interests of Maryland residential users of utility service. OPC’s attorneys advocate for rates, services and practices to benefit residential customers in regulatory and court proceedings. Most of our work takes place in proceedings before the Maryland Public Service Commission (MD PSC), the state agency that regulates utility companies. These proceedings include cases, rulemakings, public conferences and work groups set up by the MD PSC.
OPC also intervenes in cases before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency that oversees wholesale electricity markets, interstate electricity transmission and interstate gas transportation. As a result of the deregulation of the retail electric industry in Maryland in 1999, the importance of FERC policies and decisions for Maryland consumers has increased dramatically. OPC has been an advocate for Maryland consumers in numerous FERC cases involving wholesale market issues and interstate transmission line costs to be allocated to Maryland consumers. At the same time, OPC is an active consumer representative in the PJM [Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland, the regional electric transmission grid operator] stakeholder groups concerning the operation of the regional transmission organization. We sometimes participate in these cases as part of a coalition of consumer offices and other agencies.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate communications by radio, TV, wire, satellite and cable. The agency also administers the Lifeline LinkUp program for telephone assistance and the Universal Service Fund (USF) and jointly administers the Do Not Call Registry for consumers who want to avoid telemarketing calls. Most recently, as a result of stimulus legislation, the FCC has been charged with implementing a Broadband Initiative to accelerate broadband deployment throughout the country. As an active member of NASUCA, OPC is able to lend its voice on behalf of Maryland telephone consumers through the submission of comments by NASUCA in numerous FCC dockets.
OPC also appears in appellate courts when regulatory orders are challenged by OPC or other parties. The MD PSC’s orders are appealed to the courts of the State of Maryland, while the federal agency orders are heard on appeal by federal appellate courts.