Nearly three years after requesting it, Puerto Rico Telephone (Claro) has obtained its cable television franchise from the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, with which it will be able to launch Internet Protocol Television services islandwide, News is my Business has confirmed.
The agency’s resolution and order, dated Aug. 19, was quietly released about 10 days ago and was not announced despite repeated calls from this media outlet for an update on the pending issue. PRT also kept mum on the issue.
The order contains a list of conditions that PRT must meet to be able to maintain its license to launch its ClaroTV service.
If the company and the TRB abide by a schedule set forth in the document, IPTV service could conceivably go “live” early next year. The document does not establish how long PRT’s cable franchise is good for.
Among other things, PRT has 30 days submit a “Consumer Protection Code” including details on penalties for early termination, late payment fees, and automatic contract renewal stipulations, among other things.
The carrier also must address cost issues related to the use of its network and it must provide the agency an annual calculation of how much demand it estimates it will have in each of the zones it will serve, which will have a direct impact on what it charges competitors who share its telecom network. Basically, revealing that information will help the TRB to make sure prices are fair across the board.
“The code will be a working draft that the Board will eventually use when it finally approves one that will apply to the entire cable television industry,” the document stated.
PRT must also submit an expansion plan containing technical details related to service quality, improvements in unserved areas and previously served areas. The cable television franchise fee will cost the company 3 percent of its revenue.
While the license has been granted, PRT will have to hold off from officially launching its service until submitting the requested information, and it is approved by the TRB.
“Undoubtedly, the entrance of PRT into the cable television market will open the door to competition in that market. That competition should result in benefits for consumers, including better prices, better choices and new technologies,” said the TRB in the lengthy document.
In its petition to the TRB, PRT vowed to invest $107 million in network upgrades, many of which have already been completed. The company expects to see a return on its investment in five years, according to the TRB’s resolution.
The resolution also confirmed that PRT has been building its IPTV network since March 2007, confirming statements by competitors OneLink and Choice Cable that the carrier had been working on its infrastructure prior to obtaining its license. That is against Law 213, prompting them to file complaints at the agency and, in Onelink’s case, in court.
“This petition includes considerable, but fixable, defects, which should be corrected so that this application is in harmony with the public interest,” the agency said. “Furthermore, the deficiencies to be corrected by PRT will make it a viable competitor in the cable television market. If those corrections are not realized, the TRB will be obligated to deny the petition.”
The TRB said it will begin a separate process to address the unlawful network construction issue, which could include imposing hefty fines.
The resolution was signed by two of the TRB’s associate members, but not by the agency’s President, Sandra Torres, who is expected to release a dissident opinion sometime today.