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HomeNewsLocal governmentSenate Slams Liberty Phone Service in Marathon Session

Senate Slams Liberty Phone Service in Marathon Session

The Virgin Islands Legislature passed a resolution Monday night directing the USVI government to file a complaint against the territory’s largest mobile phone provider with the Federal Communications Commission. (Photo courtesy V.I. Legislature)

The 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands was so fed up with Liberty V.I.’s phone service that Monday night, with scant prior warning, they passed a resolution requiring the Virgin Islands Public Services Commission to file an official complaint on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands against Liberty Latin America, Liberty Mobile USVI, and Liberty Mobile Puerto Rico with the Federal Communications Commission.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory, had been left off an official agenda for the marathon eight-plus-hour session. It passed unanimously.

Frett-Gregory, reached in a Liberty hot spot Tuesday, said calling on the federal government to intervene was the correct action as such telecommunications were not regulated locally but in Washington.

“It’s been a challenge,” she said. “There have been lots of discussions in the community that we’ve had about concerns with Liberty.”

Denver, Colorado-based Liberty, which replaced AT&T in the territory in October 2020, had cited problems with Virgin Islands government agencies, including unexpected bureaucracy and communication issues.

Frett-Gregory said the Department of Planning and Natural Resources had agreed to expedite Liberty’s permit requests but that those issues did not explain the company’s service failures, which cause phones to lose connection and only make emergency calls.

The company’s former USVI general manager, Bala Balakrishnan, was promoted and moved to a different role within the corporation in July 2023, and new territorial manager Ravindra Maywahlall started in January, promising “better customer management, service, and custom-made offers.”

Liberty’s parent company, Liberty Latin America, did not reply to multiple requests for comment. The company’s media relations email bounced back as not working. Parts of the company’s website link to non-existent pages, and rave customer reviews for Liberty’s Broadband V.I. service appear to be at least four years old. A public relations person from Liberty V.I. promised a statement was forthcoming.

In December, one Virgin Islands Liberty customer said she might call the FCC to complain. Sen. Diane Capehart, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, urged Virgin Islanders who feel slighted by Liberty to do just that.

“Advocate for better service. Call the numbers. Complain to the customer service number. Call and complain,” Capehart said. “They also need to call the Public Services Commission to complain.”

She said Liberty offered better service to its mainland customers, as well as Puerto Rico-based customers.

Other bills approved Monday included an act renaming a portion of Gamle Gade to William A. Industrious Street and an act honoring Bernice Alma Turnbull for her service to the people of the Virgin Islands.

The senators also approved a $10,000 annual scholarship program for people studying for careers in the maritime industry in the Virgin Islands and reduced the amount of time a person can collect unemployment benefits — without reducing the total dollar amount.

They approved the creation of a Territorial Chronic Kidney Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Registry and a bill outlawing nonconsensual dissemination of sexually explicit images.

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