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We need a Public Utilities Commission

Donald E. de Castro. Photo: VINO/File
Donald E. de Castro

“Too old to be intimidated”

We are now approaching the end of the second month of 2018 and March 6 would be six months after Hurricane Irma followed by Hurricane Maria.

As we take time to look back at the many pleasant and unpleasant experiences throughout our lifetime, including the experiences we have gone through with past and present governments and all the promises they made and never kept, let me now take some time to deal with a subject that I have spoken about for years and now need immediate attention.

The various forms of communications used by the territory have evolved from the conch shell used by fishermen to today’s World Wide Web better known as the Internet. With this advanced technology communication in the territory improved significantly. However, our phone services in the Virgin Islands is unreliable and very expensive.

Many of us remember the early days when our telephone service was provided by the Government.

Cable and Wireless (C&W) took over this service from the Government. As the demand for phone service grew in the eighties, the Boat Phone which later became CCT provided cell phone service via Cable and Wireless, then C&W introduced cell phone service. We remembered having to pay to make and receive calls via your cell phone. Dissatisfaction with the service resulted in a call for more competition which led to another cell phone carrier (Digicel). This competition did not improve cell phones services but it eliminated the payment for calls received on your phones.

The creation of a regulatory body, called the Telephone Regulatory Commission, did not improve cell phones services, landline services or internet services because the law creating this body apparently does not meet the twenty first century requirements.

As we approach the end of the first quarter of 2018, because of the poor phone and internet services we have been experiencing over the years, many people seem to think that another carrier would improve these services. While another carrier may provide additional employment, it will not improve services. Additionally, since there will be four carriers competing in a population of about 30 thousand people, this would lead to higher prices because the weaker carriers would be forced out of business. Therefore, what we need is a Public Utilities Commission that will not only regulate the Telephone Companies but also, Electricity, Water, Cable TV, Cooking Gas, Gasoline and the passenger Ferries. I have spoken about this for many years and once again I am asking that action be taken on this matter urgently. However, before this body can be created, laws must be put in place that carry stiff financial penalties.

This commission must be comprised of such individuals not based on their political association but because of their independence and their ability to perform their duties by doing what is in the country's best interest.

We have been hearing over the years about a Consumer Protection Agency which I strongly support, however, at this time I want to address my greatest issue with the three carriers beside their bad service and that is their pricing. I have no knowledge how telephone providers increase their fees in the UK, Europe or the Caribbean so I can only make my comments based on the US System. Under their system none of these entities can arbitrarily increase their fees. They must apply to the necessary commission to increase their rates. Hearings will then be held which may take months as data is collected and testimony is taken from all concerned parties. A determination is then made to approve, disapprove or approve a smaller increase than what was being sought.

Two concerns I have about pricing: (1) Paying a monthly fee for a land line and still having to pay a per minute charge for local calls. (2) Paying a monthly fee for a land line, while being absent from your residence or small business for 30 days or more.

Let me give you an example of how stiff penalties work. Ferry boats registered in the Virgin Islands that service the US Virgin Islands must go through US Coast Guard inspection in St Thomas. If that ferry was built to carry 100 passengers and the Coast Guard authorises only 80 passengers for every passenger taken to St Thomas over 80, the ferry is fine $10,000.00 per passenger. Stiff penalties are what we need to get these carriers to understand their obligation to us.

Therefore, we don’t need another carrier, we need to make sure our present carriers are in compliance with our laws or fine them appropriately. If they failed to pay their fine(s), and continue to provide inferior service, revoke their license and then seek a replacement but just adding another carrier is not the answer or solution.

4 Responses to “We need a Public Utilities Commission”

  • pat (01/03/2018, 04:41) Like (9) Dislike (1) Reply
    Now he speaking good from breaking down the barber shop
    • SHUT UP (01/03/2018, 19:07) Like (0) Dislike (2) Reply
      First of all he asked L to leave over a month ago..Second of all its his place and he can do whatever he wants.Tell L to get out!.. You all don't know nothing but want to talk..Let Leeroy rent your place then so he can tell you he not leaving.
  • we the people (01/03/2018, 10:26) Like (3) Dislike (2) Reply
    I agree with him
    • Yep (02/03/2018, 09:37) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Do we really need more antennas in 24 square miles? Has the effects been thought of?

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