Senate chief disconnects TRB nominee’s ‘fast-track’ confirmation
To the apparent relief of a coalition of the island’s major telecommunications companies, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz intervened Thursday with the apparently “fast-tracked” confirmation process of Gloria Escudero Morales’ nomination as associate member of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board.
Earlier in the day, industry representatives raised a red flag about an alleged lack of transparency in the confirmation, which was originally to be evaluated at a public hearing, but unexpectedly, Sen. Lornna Soto held a closed-door executive hearing.
A group of telecom companies, including Choice Cable, Liberty Cablevision, OneLink Communication, Pacific Phones, Teléfonica Larga Distancia and WorldNet Telecommunications, went public with their concerns, to which Rivera Schatz responded, said group spokesman, attorney Raúl Mariani.
Rivera Schatz ordered Soto, who chairs the Banking, Consumer Affairs and Public Corporations committee, to hold public hearings next week and give the telecom sector participation in the confirmation process.
“We appreciate the Senate’s interest and prompt action in this matter so crucial to the telecom industry, which seeks healthy competition that benefits consumers,” said Mariani.
The group of companies is united in its opposition to Governor Luis Fortuño’s appointment of Escudero Morales, who is the sister of Ports Authority Executive Director Alberto Escudero, and an active member of the New Progressive Party and the Republican Party.
The private sector claims naming Escudero, who retired from Puerto Rico Telephone after a 30-year career, would throw the agency off balance in favor of the dominant carrier. That is so because current TRB President Sandra Torres also retired from the company after the same number of years of service.
The companies that oppose Escudero’s appointment said there are currently several major issues before the TRB’s consideration related to PRT-Claro — such as market opening, cross-subsidies, and interconnection costs, — so Escudero’s possible confirmation would open the door for competing companies to lose cases against PRT-Claro, said Michael Carrosquilla, general manager of Choice Cable TV, earlier in the day.
The group further said the designee does not have the specialized knowledge required by state and federal regulation on telecom activity, and her access to issues while at PRT that could come before the TRB’s consideration, could hinder future decision-making processes at the agency.
Several companies pull out
While it was included in the group of companies that reportedly signed a letter sent to Rivera Schatz earlier this month expressing their concerns, AT&T Mobility said Thursday it has not taken a position on Escudero’s nomination, and denied having signed the letter.
“To be clear, AT&T Mobility has not taken a position and will not take a position on Escudero’s nomination to the TRB now or in the future,” according to a brief statement AT&T sent to media outlets Thursday.
The group also reportedly included Columbus Networks and the Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative, which also denied their involvement in separate calls to News is my Business.