San Juan metropolitan area cable provider OneLink Communications stepped up Wednesday in support of Choice Cable’s decision to file a complaint against Puerto Rico Telephone (Claro) for what it claims to be an illegal build-out of its Internet Protocol Television network.
As News is my Business reported, last week, Choice asked the Telecommunications Regulatory Board to issue an injunction to stop PRT from moving forward with its construction.
“The TRB should ensure that PRT (Claro) is required to comply with the same rules that the other cable providers on the island must follow,” said Jorge Hernández, OneLink’s vice president of operations.
“Three years ago, both the TRB and a federal court told PRT (Claro) that building an IPTV network without a franchise is illegal. After those rulings, the TRB explicitly ordered PRT (Claro) to stop all IPTV-related construction and PRT (Claro) said it would do so. That should have been the end of the story,” said Hernández.
“It is amazing that this issue has come up again. Hopefully, this time the TRB will take stronger action to ensure that PRT complies with the law,” he said Wednesday. “The TRB should also scrutinize PRT’s illegal actions carefully before it decides whether a franchise should be granted to PRT.”
In its defense, PRT fired back at Choice, calling its complaint “frivolous,” adding Federal Communications Commission regulations stipulate that an incumbent carrier, such as PRT, may use its network for multiple services, such as broadband and video. Furthermore, company spokeswoman Ileana Molina said PRT “is not building a network to provide video, therefore it is not guilty of any violation of applicable federal or local laws.”
PRT’s network does not have the capacity to provide video and will remain that way until the TRB issues a determination on the cable franchise license it has requested, she said. PRT has been pursuing a cable franchise license since 2008.
OneLink, which has opposed PRT’s cable franchise license petition since the start due to what it called anti-competitive issues with the application, reiterated its long-standing argument that PRT is rolling out an IPTV network without permission.
“There is no question that PRT (Claro) is building its IPTV network, and that this construction falls squarely within the TRB’s authority,” Hernández said. “Perhaps the most shocking thing about this latest illegal activity is that it appears to have been directed by PRT (Claro)’s most senior management.”
He referred to statements made last week by Claro President Enrique Ortiz de Montellano, who publicly urged consumers to continue exerting pressure on the TRB to issue the cable franchise license needed to deploy islandwide IPTV service.
Meanwhile, the OneLink official said TRB President Sandra Torres has been pressuring the other agency to give in to PRT (Claro)’s demands. Torres has been inconsistently unavailable to respond to media requests for comment.
“The TRB should absolutely not reward PRT (Claro) for breaking the law,” Hernández said. “On the contrary, it is critical that the TRB investigate PRT (Claro)’s illegal actions, including the involvement of its senior management, and ensure that consumers and competitors are protected from PRT (Claro)’s anticompetitive conduct.”
OneLink provides service to the towns of San Juan, Bayamón, Guaynabo, Cataño, Trujillo Alto, Carolina, Toa Alta and Toa Baja.