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PSC Says Customers Still Unhappy With Vitelco Service

Aug. 11, 2005 – Telecommunications matters were given short shrift at Thursday's Public Services Commission meeting. However, Sandra Satorie, PSC assistant executive director, did take time to let a Vitelco representative know some of their customers weren't happy – especially on St. Croix.
Satorie said she had numerous calls from telephone customers who were still out of service in La Grande Princesse, after Vitelco said service to the area had been restored. Albert Bryan, director of business offices and the only Vitelco official in attendance, said work in La Grande Princesse was 100 percent completed.
But Satorie said customers said it was common for service to be restored and then go out again a few days later. She also said Vitelco reports the problem is solved, but the customer calls back.
Bryan suggested some of the outage problems were related to work being done in Mary's Fancy, which he said was 70 percent completed. Bryan said often the company elects to push on to make permanent fixes and upgrades rather than stop and fix problems temporarily.
Satorie asked if the problem was one of manpower, with repairmen working on long-term projects so "when repair calls come in there's no one to fix it."
Bryan said manpower was not a problem.
But Satorie was adamant that no matter what work was being done it was unacceptable for customers to be without phone service for a week, as many are.
Bryan said, "Refer them to me and I'll get them service."
But that answer was still not acceptable to Satorie, who said, "I want to know what the problems are exactly," adding, "A week by our standards is excessive … and not in compliance with performance standards."
She said, "The reports [to the commission] look pretty good, but when we talk to the customers, they are frustrated."
She told Bryan she wanted a meeting with him.
Another more complicated matter was dealt with expeditiously by the commission with a motion – recommended by PSC counsel Fred Watts. Watts said that in the case of a recent decision by senior Federal District Court Judge Stanley Brotman, the PSC should file a cross appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals – as Innovative Telephone also intends to do, appealing Brotman's decision – and ask for a stay on Brotman's order. In reviewing a years-old case regarding then Wireless World's ability to tap into the competition provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by getting Vitelco's rural exemption lifted, Brotman remanded the matter back to the PSC for another review and action to be taken within 60 days. (See "Federal Judge Issues Ruling on V.I. Phone Competition".) The commission voted in favor of the motion with only Jerris Browne abstaining. But Watts cautioned the commission to begin preparing to satisfy Brotman's remand, just in case the court didn't favor the stay request.
Michael Dunston, PSC counsel hired to handle this matter, will be filing the appeal and request for stay. The commission also voted to charge Vitelco $14,192.10 in interest charges on assessments going back to 2001, that they had been finally ordered to pay.
In the ongoing matter of Vitelco's financial viability, including the status of the numerous lawsuits the company is engaged in, the commission read into the record a letter from Joel Holt, attorney for Vitelco, stating there was nothing new in any of the suits between Vitelco and the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative, the company's major lender. The letter was signed off on by RTFC's attorney Jonathan Siegfried.
Commissioners in attendance at Thursday's meeting included Browne, Verne David, Valencio Jackson, Alric Simmonds, and Alecia Wells.


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