Confidentiality issues and questions over the Public Services Commission’s jurisdiction over local wireless services prevented a section on telecommunications matters – which focused on updates from Innovative and the merger with Atlantic Tele Network – from moving forward Tuesday night.
In fact, the only thing approved after a long meeting on St. Thomas was the continuation of an interconnection agreement between Innovative and Level 3 Communications that Innovative Chief Executive Officer Alvaro Pilar said has remained unchanged for the past three years.
Most of the rest of the discussion on Innovative focused on updates, which Pilar said were restricted in some cases by confidentiality issues. PSC consultants Georgetown Consulting Group were, for example, ready to make recommendations on the company’s migration and financial reports, but could not speak about them in open session.
Pilar also contested the commission’s jurisdiction over local wireless matters, which came up during a later discussion on how Innovative was using its federal Universal Service Funds.
Pilar said that an extensive report would be issued in July about how Innovative has used the $60 million it received last year from the UCF, which basically broke the money down into three divisions. While Pilar said that the wireless portion of the report did not have to be detailed to the PSC because it doesn’t regulate wireless service, commissioners said their concerns had to do with customer service and why local residents still weren’t able to connect to the internet in remote areas.
Pilar said that for every remote area with low connectivity, Innovative has a business plan on how to deal with the issues but was focused on finishing up a state-of-the-art, high-fiber coaxial network that would replace the older, existing Legacy network currently under Innovative. While commissioners said they were concerned that little to no notice was given to customers about having to migrate to that network, Pilar said that Innovative had explained its plans to the PSC before and received no opposition.
Pilar added, however, that cutting people off from internet service – which commissioners said that residents were complaining about – was a last resort in order to push them to migrate. In order to complete a new network, Innovative needs to take its customers off of the existing frequencies, but Pilar added that the “larger solution” was not regulated by the PSC.
Issues of jurisdiction also came up later in the meeting, when PSC members attempted again to delve into the issue of streetlights with V.I. Water and Power Authority representatives, which they decided to do an independent study on at the last meeting.
On Tuesday, commission members tried to get figures on everything from the amount owed to WAPA for streetlights to the overall cost and possible alternatives, which WAPA officials have said in the past does not fall under the PSC’s purview.
No action was taken during the WAPA portion of the meeting because the PSC eventually lost its quorum.
A motion to raise the nonresident ferry fee to and from St. John failed, even after franchise ferry representatives said they could use the funds to fix the two boats leased to them by the Department of Public Works.
During Tuesday’s meeting, ferry officials said the boats came to them in poor condition and were experiencing problems shortly after. Now both are down and not currently in use, according to officials.