Innovative Companies’ new management this week submitted a $78 million, four-year plan to the V.I. Public Services Commission for a new phone, internet and cable TV network, with broader bandwidth and more reliable service.
Innovative currently maintains two network systems—one for telephone products on copper cable and another for cable TV on coaxial cable.
The new system will be an integrated network with all products mounted on a fiber optic network with coaxial cable running the last few yards to individual consumers, a type the company says is well proven and extensively used throughout the United States.
Billing and customer service are going to be consolidated with combined invoices, so customers can pay one bill for their cable, internet and telephone service. And its new operating system will be able to detect and communicate outage locations before customers call to complain, speeding up response.
The National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) has owned the local Vitelco telephone company and two Innovative cable television companies through its subsidiary Caribbean Asset Holdings (CAH) since October 2010.
The plan is a more fully realized version of upgrades CFC had agreed to at the time the PSC approved CFC taking control of the regulated cable and telephone utilities, said Michael Soileau, Innovative’s senior vice president for sales, marketing and customer experience, Tuesday evening.
The $78 million cost of the plan slightly exceeds the $75 million promised in the transfer of control agreement approved by the PSC, according to Innovative.
"Our immediate focus right now is to improve services to subscribers today and make up for years of neglect," Soileau said Tuesday.
According to Innovative Chief Executive Officer Seth Davis, the new system will give the territory the most sophisticated telecommunications products in the Caribbean on par with anywhere else in the world, have extremely reliable service and have better access to the rest of the world. But, "as Innovative has agreed with the PSC, these improvements will not impact customers’ existing basic rates," said Davis in a statement.
Innovative crews seen trenching and replacing lines over the past few months have been working on the existing network and not the new one, which is still being finalized, Soileau said.
"We are constantly in the process of repairing and enhancing the existing network," he said. "We will be beta-testing the fiber and coaxial network on St. Croix and in the coming months."