Telecom Board opens Liberty/Choice deal for comment
The Puerto Rico Telecommunications Regulatory Board has opened for public comment the petition submitted by Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico to buy Choice Cable TV, and fold the latter’s franchise license into its local operation, this media outlet confirmed.
The agency has put up Liberty’s petition on its website for consumers to review, and has given interested parties through mid-February to submit comments via regular or e-mail, according to the TRB’s Resolution and Order dated Jan. 16.
The agency met late last week to discuss Liberty’s petition, which would pave the way for the acquisition of 100 percent of Puerto Rico Cable Acquisition Company Inc., which does business as Choice Cable TV, for some $272.5 million, as this media outlet reported in December.
Aside from accepting public comment, the TRB will also look into several aspects of the proposed deal, including the buyer’s corporate structure, it’s financial capacity based solely on its cable television business, and how the deal would affect that financial capacity.
The TRB is also seeking answers to how many paid television subscribers the single operation would have and its total market share after the deal goes through.
The regulatory agency will also look into how many customer complaints are pending under Choice Cable as well as Liberty, and its plans to maintain the quality and efficiency of customer service.
“In which way, if any, will the acquisition impact the public interest, considering consumer interests when receiving quality service and programming at reasonable, competitive prices, the interest of competitors in a fair, equitable and balanced market, the interests of multi-channel content providers and of the businesses that use multi-channel vendors, among others,” the agency stated in its Resolution and Order.
Finally, the TRB also seeks to find out Liberty’s planned expansion, improvements and construction of infrastructure in unserved areas — including public housing projects throughout Puerto Rico — over the next five years. That plan must offer details of extending service to Vieques and Culebra in the same timeframe.
In a separate order, the TRB announced that its newest Associate Member, Attorney Hiram Martínez, will oversee the franchise transfer petition and will chair administrative hearings.
The decision to delegate the work to Martínez was unanimous among the agency’s five-member panel, TRB President Javier Rúa-Jovet confirmed.