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PAY PHONE OPERATORS QUESTION PSC BILLS

The Public Services Commission has billed pay phone providers for services the PSC has not provided, officials for two pay phone companies claim.
According to Martin Kuykendall, president of Professional Payphones, and Fermin Osborne, president of Island Pay Phone Systems Inc., the PSC ruled three years ago that pay phone providers should cover the cost of pay phone inspections in the territory, but never notified pay phone operators of the new plan.
Suddenly the providers received bills for three years worth of fees, according to a story in the Virgin Islands Independent.
Osborne and Kuykendall say they were billed between $12,000 and $13,000 in 1997 for fees dating to June 1994. They have not paid, saying the fees are discriminatory and illegal under federal law.
PSC Executive Director Alexander Petersen said the fee was supposed to pay for an inspector to make sure the pay phones meet requirements set by the PSC and the communications industry. Petersen admitted no one has been hired due to lack of money in the PSC budget, according to the Independent.
Despite a federal law mandating all pay phone operators be treated the same, the V.I. Telephone Corp. does not have to pay for its pay phones, according to the Independent story.
Osborn said pay phone operators went to the PSC in 1997 and tried to iron out the problems with access and fees for pay phone operators, but was told the Commission was not able to address any of the issues at that time.
“However, we were told that a request would be submitted for a hearing regarding Vitelco’s not being subject to the same fees and rules," Osborn said.
Osborn said the matter has not been discussed since then.

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