Fines have been coming down upon telecom companies over the past year. Most notably, T-Mobile got hit by the FTC a few months ago over 911 outages. Now, the California Public Utilities Commission has gone after both AT&T and Verizon, saying that the two companies have not has a consistent and quality service in the state. The CPUC is seeking damages unless the two cell phone providers fix their infrastructure.
The CPUC will now be conducting an investigation into AT&T and Verizon over the next six months to "report on progress towards completion" of significant network improvements. In the first three months of the case, the Commission will also have to present updates on whether or not AT&T and Verizon have paid for the study. The two companies are both going to be responsible for providing the necessary financial support to a third party contractor who is working for the CPUC.
This isn't the beginning of the saga, however. Since December of 2010, the CPUC has been investigating and researching the details of every outage AT&T and Verizon have had in the state. This came about after a winter storm that had caused a widespread outage that wasn't fixed for a substantial amount of time. This led to a filing of a suit in February of 2013 that said that both companies took way too long to fix problems when they happened, and that improvements must be made on response and deployment times during network outages.
The recent court decision about this case finally puts a timeline on AT&T and Verizon to actually begin work on their respective networks and fix the problems in the complaint. AT&T has responded by saying the Commission's metrics they use to measure response time and time-until-fix are "inherently flawed" and that the metrics should be eliminated. Verizon has gone on record to say that both networks are "healthy and reliable", citing a completely different set of metrics that prove this.
Either way, both companies' hands have been forced and hopefully the State of California will see a noticeable improvement to the quality of the network. That is, unless the improvements are known to the State of California to cause birth defects.