Gloria Escudero’s nomination as the newest associate member of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board was confirmed Monday night by the Senate, despite the stiff opposition telecom service providers expressed toward her designation earlier in the day, News is my Business learned.
Sen. Lornna Soto, head of the Banking, Consumer Affairs and Public Corporations committee, held a hearing in the morning during which members of the telecom industry said her nomination was not in the best interest of consumers, and put at risk thousands of jobs and future investments, among other arguments against.
“WorldNet believes Escudero’s nomination would undermine the board’s role as a strong and unquestioned impartial arbiter and protector of competition and therefore would not be in the best interest of Puerto Rico and should be denied,” said David Bogaty, founder and President of WorldNet Communications during his testimony.
“In short, this nomination would impede competition and accordingly remove the benefits that the Puerto Rico legislature and U.S. Congress recognize competition provides toward innovation, better service and lower prices in the telecom technology industry,” he further noted. “We strongly and respectfully request your reconsideration of this nomination”
As News is my Business reported, Escudero, sister of the now former Ports Authority and Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Executive Director Alberto Escudero, was appointed by Gov. Luis Fortuño in August. The nomination moved to Soto’s committee, which attempted to approve it behind a closed-door executive hearing Friday.
That fast-track process raised industry concerns over the possibility that if approved, Escudero — a 33-year veteran of Puerto Rico Telephone (Claro) — would sway the balance of powers at the agency, whose current president, Sandra Torres is also a former PRT employee. Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz stopped the process and ordered public hearings to allow the industry to opine.
During the hearing, OneLink’s Jorge Hernández brought up the issue of a potential conflict of interest related to Escudero’s appointment over the fact that she receives retirement checks from PRT, as does Torres.
“Upon receiving this income, which is directly tied to the PRT’s fiscal health, it creates a conflict of interest which would require the inhibition of both of them in matters involving the PRT,” he said.
If such were the case, it would leave only one member available to make a call, which goes against the law that states it takes two votes to make official decisions.
“So, if a conflict of interest should occur, the Board would be crippled due to a lack of members who are able to resolve the issue raised,” Hernández noted.
Escudero gets her say
During her testimony Monday, Escudero vowed to the industry that they would be “completely satisfied with the track record I will have because I am fair and impartial.”
Monday’s testimony marked Escudero’s first public appearance following her nomination. Her ex-husband and other family members were by her side during her testimony, when at times she seemed to get teary-eyed as she stressed that her past relationships with PRT, and former owners Verizon and GTE, “will only serve as a source of experience, and I will “faithfully follow the guidelines that you, the Legislature, have delegated to the TRB through Law 213.”
“Our goal should be to encourage and facilitate the development of a strong, high quality telecommunications industry, so that it may provide more and better services to our citizens at fair and accessible prices,” she said.
“The bottom line is that we may have on the board two people or three people from PRT, but what we need are three people who are fair and reasonable,” she said, asking for a chance to “protect whoever we have to protect.”