May 1, 2007 — It was a frustrated and perplexed William Roughton, vice-president of Centennial Communications, who abruptly left the Public Services Commissions (PSC) meeting Monday after his proposal to bring wireless service to the territory was postponed, yet again.
A visibly vexed Roughton said in closing, All of you have complained about the wireless service to me, and this is how you can fix it. Every time I come back there is no decision. There is another problem.
In response, PSC Chairperson Alecia Wells said, "I think your attitude may need a little adjusting. You are upset because your company is not getting what they want. I think you are very rude and out of place.
Roughton had flown in from Washington, D.C., hoping to receive the PSCs approval on a petition for the Puerto Rican-based Centennial to become an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Instead, the vote on the petition was delayed.
In December 2006, Roughton appeared before the commission when he was told by Wells that Centennial would have to fill out a questionnaire, created by the PSC, before any action could be taken on the matter.
"We'll get back to you in 60 days," she said in December (See PSC Tells Centennial Communications: 'We'll Get Back to You').
After initiating discussions with the commission in February 2005, Centennial submitted a draft order and all documents towards application in February 2007.
According to PSC members, they had not seen the petition; and because legal counsel was not present, they would not vote and the petition was tabled.
In a written statement read to the PSC, Roughton said, Becoming an ETC in the territory would be a good thing for my company. However, it would also be a very good thing for the people of the Virgin Islands as well, because it will result in an improved and more reliable wireless infrastructure on which people can rely.
In his statement, Roughton noted that the territorys wireless infrastructure is not of the highest quality, and that federal funds are available for improvement through the Universal Service Funds (USF), monies supplied by a federal surcharge that appears on all phone bills to ensure availability of service to rural and high-cost areas.
According to Roughton, the territory is one such area with its steep mountains and deep, narrow valleys, and, he said, the FCC is expected shortly to freeze USF funds available to ETCs at current levels.
In response, Samuel Ebberson, representing Vitelco, said that no emergency existed in terms of USF funding. Lets hold on a little period of time until we can find ways to resolve the issue. If we are not getting any money now, there is no emergency at this juncture in time, Ebberson said.
Roughton countered that Vitelco or any wireless provider could apply for USF funding for improvements, but had not. He added that the PSC had had all the documents for several weeks and that a rumored impending cap in USF recipients created an emergency. He said the cap was expected within weeks.
Commissioner Raymond Williams said, This is the first I have heard of this, and I am quite lost. Without our expert here, there is no way for us to proceed.
At that point, Centennial's petition for ETC status was tabled until the next meeting, much to the dismay of Roughton.
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