Court stays out of OneLink/Claro controversy, TRB issues IPTV franchise contract
The arrival of television-via-broadband could happen this quarter, as Puerto Rico Telephone (Claro) had mapped out, after the U.S. District Court dismissed the complaint filed by OneLink Communications opposing the manner in which the license to launch the service was granted.
In its opinion and order, the court denied OneLink’s petition for a stay of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board’s approval of Claro’s cable television franchise request granted in November.
In its argument, OneLink took exception with the fact that the agency chose to override a prior order it had issued requiring PRT/Claro to abide by a number of conditions with a new one that lacked “any meaningful conditions or restrictions, in blatant violation of federal and Commonwealth substantive and procedural law and in astonishing contradiction of the Board’s own substantial administrative record.”
However, the court determined that the controversy “was not yet ripe” because there are matters pending resolution at the TRB involving PRT/Claro, which basically must be addressed there. Still, the decision was issued without prejudice, leaving the door open for OneLink to again argue its case in that legal forum.
On Thursday, OneLink Vice President Jorge Hernández said the company is deciding its next steps.
“The decision notes that in time, the Federal Court could hear the case. After the Federal Court issued its decision, the TRB issued a new Resolution and Order granting the IPTV franchise to PRT/Claro without any restrictions,” Hernández said, referring to the new document the board released Wednesday, with the opposition from Associate Member Nixyvette Santini.
“OneLink Communications is looking into this new document and has asked to evaluate the franchise agreement, which is a prerequisite for the formalization of such a license,” he said.
Attempts to reach TRB President Sandra Torres were unsuccessful Thursday.
The agency granted PRT/Claro its cable television franchise license in November 2011, nearly four years after the company filed its request.
Along the way, OneLink has opposed the petition — joined at times by the other cable providers — claiming PRT/Claro has violated laws applicable to all cable carriers on the island, including building out its network prior to having the permission to do so. The plaintiffs have also objected to PRT/Claro’s ability to cross-subsidize to finance its services, which would give it an unfair advantage when it came to pricing.
Soon after getting the license, PRT/Claro President Enrique Ortíz de Montellano said the ClaroTV-branded IPTV service could go live during the first quarter of 2012 starting in the San Juan metropolitan area. It is expected that the negotiation and execution of the franchise agreement between the carrier and the agency will take a few weeks.
‘No problem, as long as competition is fair’
By launching the ClaroTV IPTV service, PRT/Claro is looking to compete not only with the traditional cable providers, but with satellite paid television companies, such as DirecTV and Dish Network.
DirecTV General Manager Thelma López told News is my Business Thursday the impending arrival of the IPTV service is not a source of concern.
“We’re not worried in the sense that we believe in free competition. However, it is important that competition takes place on a level playing field, that it is fair for all operators,” she said.