Choice Cable TV caught Puerto Rico Telephone (Claro) building infrastructure for its proposed Internet Protocol TV service in its region earlier this month, doing so without a cable franchise license in violation of local laws.
Claiming the action will cause it “irreparable harm,” Choice has asked the Telecommunications Regulatory Board for an injunction to stop PRT in its tracks, according to documents News is my Business obtained exclusively.
If the TRB grants Choice’s request, PRT’s alleged actions could result in further delays for the launch of IPTV, which has already seen its share of setbacks in the last three years.
In its complaint filed Oct. 27, the cable operator claimed it has “suffered, and will continue to suffer, serious harm as a result of the fact that PRT has gotten an unlawful head-start in constructing its cable system, which provides a competitive advantage over the other cable operators in Puerto Rico that complied with the law.”
The unlawful construction in an unspecified location in Choice’s service area — which covers 31 towns from Quebradillas to the west and south to Cabo Rojo, then east to Maunabo — apparently began earlier this month, when Choice said it saw PRT’s contractor, JAFcom Corp., performing work near the carrier’s telecom facilities.
JAFcom Corp. was reportedly digging up streets and sidewalks, laying cement pillars, and installing specialized structures to house video processing and distribution equipment, among others. All of the work, Choice said, is needed to build and maintain a cable system and provide cable services.
PRT’s actions, Choice claimed, go against the basic premise of fair competition and against the public interest, as it is violating Puerto Rico laws.
“Indeed, PRTC’s illegal construction of its cable system … to obtain an unfair competitive advantage over other providers runs directly counter to that important purpose of Law 213,” Choice said, referring to the Puerto Rico Telecom Law of 1996 that regulates local telephone and cable services.
Ironically, Choice’s filing came a day after PRT President Enrique Ortiz de Montellano urged the public to pressure the TRB into granting the cable television license it requested three years ago. In late August, TRB President Sandra Torres said the agency had reached an agreement “in principle” to grant the license, but has yet to issue the official certification.
“Although … articles have quoted the president of the [TRB] as stating that a decision on PRT’s cable franchise application is imminent, PRT has apparently determined not to wait even for that decision to be issued and has recently expanded its illegal activity and has begun building its cable system in an entirely new part of the island,” the cable provider stated in its complaint.
Choice’s arguments laid out in the complaint raise the same point its San Juan metropolitan area counterpart Onelink has brought up on numerous occasions — PRT has failed to wait to have its franchise license before moving forward on building its network.
“Puerto Rico law requires any would-be cable provider to obtain a cable franchise before beginning to construct a cable system, in whole or in part. PRT has by its own admission ignored this clear legal requirement, and has been building its cable system for years while its franchise application has been pending,” Choice said.
Editor’s note: News is my Business obtained copies of the complaints over the weekend, making it impossible to get reactions from the TRB and PRT.