Delayed by a “give-and-take” between Telecommunications Regulatory Board members and representatives from Puerto Rico Telephone (Claro) and companies opposed to its application for a cable television franchise license, Monday’s hearing on IPTV got off to an unsurprisingly rocky start.
More than an hour into the hearing, the public had yet to have its say on the merits of IPTV, partly due to an air of improvisation that permeated the process that unleashed questions and arguments from TRB members and company representatives in the audience.
When several issues – including when PRT’s legal representative Eduardo Guzmán informed the TRB that the Superior Court had granted an injunction preventing confidential information from being exposed during the hearing — were finally set aside, the first of several consumers took the stand to opine.
In essence the trio were in favor of Claro’s IPTV franchise request, but agreed that the TRB must monitor the company and competitors closely to ensure that consumers are benefited.
“The objections to the granting of the license to [Claro] to operate a pay television franchise through IPTV technology have been very surprising because I believe strongly that IPTV is one of those new technologies that Puerto Rico should give way to for the potential for change that it promises,” said Wilton Vargas, a technology expert with 27 years of experience, who runs the Tecnetico.com website.
He said IPTV should be allowed to move forward, while the board places controls on Claro as well as the rest of the cable industry.
Meanwhile, Enrique “Rickín” Sánchez, CEO of R&F Broadcasting, which operates commercial television stations VideoMax and TVMax, said “it is not prudent to stand in the way of progress.”
“This is a new system, and eventually, Puerto Rico will have access to this service. But as in all concessions, they are conditioned and one of the conditions on this one should be that Puerto Rico’s commercial channels be included in ClaroTV’s lineup,” Sánchez said.
Meanwhile, Gilberto Arvelo, also known as Dr. Shoper (sic), threw its support behind Claro’s IPTV bid, especially because it would add one more player to the competitive mix.
“At present, the companies that oppose that the board grant the entrance of ClaroTV are unscrupulous and abusive toward consumers,” Arvelo said during his turn to speak. “Aside from providing inconsistent service, they do not comply with what was agreed to in the contract by applying dilatory tactics when it comes to offering customer service and contract cancellations.”
Press nearly shut-out
Early in the hearing, Associate Board member Vicente Aguirre Iturrino expressed his opposition to the presence of television cameras in the hearing room, saying it was not customary for agency proceedings to be filmed.
However, because the hearing was open to the public, members of the media defended their right to be there to be the “eyes and ears” of citizens who were unable to attend.
Ultimately, photojournalists were assigned an area from which to do their work, possibly for the first time since the TRB’s inception in 1996.