The implementation of the terms of Law 280, which establishes a mandatory prepaid mobile phone registry in Puerto Rico, has been postponed indefinitely, News is my Business learned Thursday.
Late last week, the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, the agency in charge of drafting the regulations pertaining to the registry that was supposed to start this month, notified wireless carriers of its decision to push off its enactment “until further notice.”
“Thus it will not require compliance with this obligation at the current time,” stated the letter dated Mar. 21 sent separately to AT&T de Puerto Rico, T-Mobile Puerto Rico and the other wireless carriers serving the island market and selling prepaid handsets.
The agency’s decision comes in the midst of a civil lawsuit filed in mid-February by Washington D.C. trade group CTIA- The Wireless Association asking the U.S. District Court in San Juan to invalidate the law, stating it violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and is preempted by federal law.
The trade group also asked for an injunction to prevent the government from enforcing the law. While the court has yet to address the petition, the TRB’s move may render it moot, a source familiar with the proceeding told this media outlet.
When the CTIA filed its lawsuit, the TRB was still developing the regulations necessary to enforce the law. At the time, TRB President Sandra Torres called the legal filing “premature,” as News is my Business reported.
Law 280 went into effect Dec. 27, giving the TRB 90 days – or through the end of March – to adopt regulations and establish the mandatory registry. Upon signing the mandate, Gov. Luis Fortuño said Fortuño said it would “help to significantly prevent that criminals continue to use prepaid phones, unpunished, to commit crimes and extort citizens by making them believe they have kidnapped a family member to steal their money.”
The mandate generated a backlash of concern from the carriers that claimed the registry could violate a person’s right to privacy, particularly law-abiding citizens who need the anonymity for security reasons, for example, battered women and crime victims.
Retailers also raised their own red flags, saying among other things that the task of having to register each prepaid handset sold at their stores and turn that data over to the TRB could represent an additional cost of doing business.
There are approximately 800,000 prepaid mobile phones in use in Puerto Rico.