I recently made my annual trek to Lansing, Michigan to serve as an instructor in the nationally-renowned Institute for Public Utilities Regulatory Studies Program. The two-week program, known as “Camp NARUC,” covers all aspects of the regulatory process and is designed for state commissioners, state commission staff, state consumer advocates and staff, and federal regulatory staff.
The session that I taught focused on how to protect utility customers in changing markets. In the past couple of decades there have been so many changes in energy and telecommunications markets, and as a result there have been new regulatory structures adopted at the state and national level. For consumers of energy services, there have been state restructuring initiatives with a mix of results for consumers. More recently, new technologies — smart grid and its smart meters — have led the way with exciting opportunities for energy efficiency and home energy management, while also raising the need to address questions about consumer cost and privacy.
Telecommunications consumers have seen tremendous growth in services and competition. Wireless, broadband, and mobile broadband have now changed the way consumers communicate. Over the past decade, federal and state regulations have shifted to adjust to the changes in consumers’ use of technology for communications services, and will likely continue to change as technology advances.
Most importantly, I believe it’s a top priority to continue to ensure that the interests of consumers are protected as both energy and telecommunications markets continue to evolve.