|TRB President Sandra Torres, flanked by lawmakers Paula Rodríguez Homs,
Lornna Soto and José Chico during a Thursday news conference.
Almost 15 years after the Telecommunications Regulatory Board began regulating the local market, it has gotten the legal go-ahead to include direct broadcast service providers, or satellite television companies, within its jurisdiction.
Through the approval of Law 11 earlier this week, some 380,000 satellite television customers on the island will be able to turn to the TRB with their problems and complaints, as the agency is now authorized to oversee the terms and conditions of the services offered by Dish Network, DirecTV and Claro TV.
“Now consumers can be reassured. This new law provides us an important tool to prevent major complaints on unwarranted charges and any other concerns citizens may have and we were unable to address,” TRB President Sandra Torres said during a news conference held at the Capitol, noting that the major complaints are usually related to billing issues.
Accompanied by lawmakers José Chico, Paula Rodríguez Homs and Lornna Soto, Torres said one of the biggest consumer complaints is “when month after month their bill reflects a balance greater than what they’re used to paying or when new, unrequested services or charges are added.”
Direct broadcast services have been successful at gaining ground among Puerto Rico consumers who are traditionally not served by the three local cable television companies — Onelink Communications, Liberty Cable and Choice Cable — for geographic or other reasons. Rooftop antennas are most visible in rural parts of the island, where cable television companies have not extended their infrastructure.
During the news conference, the law’s author, Rodríguez Homs, said Puerto Rico is now the first U.S. territory legally authorized to regulate the transmission of interstate and foreign radio waves, such as satellite television.
One of the law’s requirements is that Dish, DirecTV and Claro register with the TRB so the agency can keep track of complaints.
Despite not having jurisdiction over the industry, over the years the TRB has addressed an unspecified — but “significant” — number of these types of complaints lodged against providers. In some cases, the issues were resolved informally through talks with companies that have local offices. However, in the case of problems with companies that do not have local presence, such as Dish Network, customers had a harder time having their problems heard, Torres said.
Under the new law, satellite television services that violate stipulated regulations are subject to fines ranging from $25,000 to $250,000 a day.