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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, March 28, 2023


Local entrepreneur Gordon Ackley has applied to the V.I. Telephone Corp. for the right to compete as a local exchange carrier to provide alternative local phone service to V.I. residents and businesses.
If Ackley gets a green light, the competition for local phone customers could drive down prices and improve service.
Citing the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, Ackley asked Vitelco for five things:
—- The right to resell telephone services.
—- Number portability.
—- Access to Vitelco’s poles and conduits.
—- The right to co-locate equipment.
—- Reciprocal compensation.
Under the Telecom Act, local phone carriers are required to lease their equipment and networks to competitors at wholesale prices.
Ackley met Jan. 12 with Michaele Breton, vice president of marketing for Vitelco, and Emiel Michiels, manager of budget and results, to begin negotiations, which Ackley said could be lengthy.
This is not the first time a company has applied to Vitelco for local exchange carrier status, known as LEC.
In the mid-1990s Windkeeper Inc. attempted to enter the local telephone service market as an LEC.
According to Andrew Rutnik, then chairman of the Public Services Commission, Windkeeper approached the PSC to intervene in the negotiations with Vitelco, which had “dragged on.”
Rutnik said the PSC was about to force arbitration when Windkeeper withdrew its request.
At the time Windkeeper applied for local exchange carrier rights, Vitelco had recently shown a gross revenue of $53 million for fiscal 1995, according to local economist Dr. Richard Moore.
As a local exchange carrier under the Telecom Act, an LEC can provide local telephone service to customers. The changeover to a new local carrier should be “seamless,” according to Ackley.
Part of the agreement between an LEC and an incumbent local exchange carrier — in this case Vitelco — provides for “number portability,” which means customers of the incumbent LEC who want to change to a new local carrier can keep their old phone number.
According to Ackley, the incumbent LEC –Vitelco —- and a would-be LEC —- Ackley Communications —- have nine months to negotiate the terms of the agreement. If they do not reach an agreement by then, the matter is referred to the PSC for arbitration. The PSC has three months to act.
Thereafter, if the interconnection agreement has not been approved, the matter is turned over to the Federal Communications Commission.
The terms of the Telecom Act requiring incumbent local carriers to provide access to LECs are intended to open up competition in the area of local telephone service and to give LECs time to put their own equipment and infrastructure in place.
Vitelco spokesperson Katrina White-Comissiong would say only that the issue was in negotiation and she was not in a position to comment further now.

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