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Claro edges closer toward securing cable TV franchise

TRB President Sandra Torres (Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)

Telecommunications service provider Claro may be close to approaching the finish line on a more than three-year race to obtain franchise rights to launch islandwide cable television services in Puerto Rico, News is my Business learned Thursday.

For the past two days, company representatives have huddled with Telecommunications Regulatory Board officials in Santurce to discuss a number of pending issues related to its offer, including how much it would charge for the Claro TV cable service, TRB President Sandra Torres said.

If Claro complies with submitting the paperwork and information the TRB requested, there is a possibility that the franchise license approval could come down before June.

“We see the public interest in this because cable television franchises that exist on the island are regionalized, and giving Claro the franchise rights would force those companies to compete and improve their prices and services,” said TRB President Sandra Torres.

Among other things, Claro has said its cable television service would blanket between 50 percent and 60 percent of the island within five years. In preparation for that, the company has invested at least $70 million on Internet infrastructure, as Claro TV was to be offered through a hybrid platform combining broadband and satellite signals.

“This is good from the competitive point of view, because it will force the cable industry, just as it has happened with the wireless industry, to offer better prices and bundles. I think it will represent a benefit to the public if the license is finally issued,” Torres noted.

Claro has been pursuing a cable television franchise license since February 2008. However, its application at the TRB was met with stiff opposition by existing cable companies, especially from Onelink Communications. The San Juan metropolitan area cable company challenged Claro’s petition all the way to the Supreme Court, which in December reverted the case back to the TRB.

But while deliberations took place at the different forums, in April 2010 Claro opted to break into the paid television market by launching satellite service first, as it was a segment the TRB did not have jurisdiction over until earlier this year. Hence, it did not need a license or authorization to begin signing up customers.

ClaroTV currently offers a basic plan that includes more than 50 local and international channels in English and Spanish. The company has told the TRB it will continue its satellite service after it obtains the cable television franchise license, Torres said.

ClaroTV already competes with incumbents Onelink, Liberty Cable, Choice Cable, DirecTV and Dish Network, and has vowed to blanket the island, as well as Vieques and Culebra, in the years ahead.

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Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 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.

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