The House of Representatives has submitted or reviewed 10 bills this year proposing changes to existing laws related to the telecommunications sector, none of which have been approved.
Among the measures is House Bill 2489, filed in February, to authorize the Telecommunications Regulatory Board to regulate the terms and conditions stipulated in data service contracts entered into with wireless companies on the island. The bill would also authorize the agency to address consumer complaints related to wireless data service problems.
In its review of the bill, the House Economic Development, Planning, Commerce, Industry and Telecommunications committee held several public hearings, during which the TRB and several wireless carriers — Claro and AT&T — offered their testimony in which they essentially agreed that regulation is unnecessary as competition takes care of protecting consumers.
Still, in June, the committee recommended that the bill be approved “as it represented a direct benefit for consumers” and would authorize the TRB oversee complaints. The measure has since been remitted to the House Calendars committee for a vote.
Another measure that was considered but that apparently fell by the wayside was House Bill 2664, penned by Popular Democratic Party Rep. Luis Farinacci, seeking to ban wireless carriers from requiring customers to extend or renew their existing contracts to switch service plans if the new plan were more expensive.
The minority lawmaker touched upon a sensitive subject with that measure that has seemingly been resting in a drawer since August.
A third bill that is apparently closer to being approved than any of the others is House Bill 154, which would amend the island’s traffic law to prohibit the use of wireless phones while driving. The bill would enforce the use of hands-free equipment while driving.
The measure cited a study commissioned by the Traffic Safety Committee, which among other things noted that nearly seven out of 10 drivers, or 69 percent, have a wireless phone with them while driving. In terms of calls made and received, drivers who used their phones said they handle an average of four calls during a normal day while behind the wheel.
The House approved the measure in June 2009, and about a year later, the Senate’s Urbanism and Infrastructure Committee submitted its recommendations. The bill is pending that legislative body’s approval, to then be sent to La Fortaleza.
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.