Six weeks after holding possibly the most explosive public hearing in its history, the Telecommunications Regulatory Board has yet to officially grant Claro the franchise license it needs to launch Internet-based television services.
Although TRB President Sandra Torres told News is my Business late last month that the license had been granted “in principle,” nothing official has been submitted for the record despite mounting public and government pressure.
Numerous attempts to reach Torres have been unsuccessful since Monday. However, in the interview, Torres said the three agency heads had yet to agree on the conditions that will be imposed on Claro. A source knowledgeable with the process said the authorization should come down this week.
Meanwhile, Claro executives have also remained silent on the matter.
On Aug. 8, the TRB held an all-day hearing to gather additional information that two of its members — Nixyvette Rodríguez and Vicente Aguirre — said they needed to decide on Claro’s cable TV franchise application. Torres had already expressed herself in favor of making a decision to put an end to the protracted three-year process.
In February 2008, Claro requested a franchise license from the TRB to offer IPTV service for all of Puerto Rico, setting itself up to compete head-on with the three traditional cable television providers: Onelink Communications, Liberty Cable and Choice TV.
However, its application at the TRB was met with stiff opposition by existing cable companies, particularly from Onelink Communications, which challenged Claro’s petition all the way to the Supreme Court. In December 2010, that forum reverted the case to the TRB, which by law had 180 days to decide. That should have been sometime in June.
While deliberations took place at the different forums, in April 2010, Claro opted to break into the paid television market by launching satellite service, as it was a segment the TRB did not have jurisdiction over until earlier this year. Hence, it did not need a license or authorization to begin signing up customers.
But now, the company wants to roll out its IPTV service, promising to offer an infinite amount of content from which customers can opt into through set monthly packages, on-demand, or a combination of both.