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Friday, April 19, 2024


April 25, 2001 – Innovative Telephone (formerly Vitelco) launched into the long-distance business Wednesday.
That puts Innovative in direct competition with four other carriers serving the Virgin Islands: AT&T, Sprint, TLD and Primus.
It's not the first time the local phone company has tried expanding into long distance. A previous foray in the early 1990s, when Atlantic Tele-Network owned the V.I. Telephone Corp., apparently was not financially successful. In 1993, the company sold its long-distance operation, then called Vitelcom, to St. Thomas-San Juan Telephone. That company went through a series of changes and is now Primus.
Industry observers speculate that AT&T of the Virgin Islands has at least half the long-distance market in the territory. Until a few months ago, it also had an agreement for Innovative to bill AT&T customers on their monthly local-service statements. Then AT&T sued Innovative, accusing the local carrier of failing to turn over some collections, and began billing its long-distance customers separately.
A return to one consolidated bill for local and long distance is one of the selling points of Innovative's marketing campaign.
Another is the offer of up to 360 free minutes of service, to be spread over 12 months at no more than 30 minutes per month.
The company is offering several customer options:
– Under the Smart Savings Plan, calls to the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico are a flat 15 cents a minute.
– The Smart Savings Discount Plan features a sliding scale of per-minute rates (from 15 cents to 17 cents) and a sliding scale of percentage discounts based on the amount of the bill; at the ceiling of "over $100," the rate is 15 cents and the discount is 25 percent.
– A weekend plan lowers the per-minute price to 7 cents from 12:01 a.m. Saturday (Friday night) to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, but it also imposes a $5.95 monthly fee.
– The Smart Savings Premiere Plan extends the rate of 7 cents per minute to anytime, any day, while raising the monthly fee to $6.95.
– The Smart Savings Caribbean Plan carries a monthly fee of $2.50 a month, with the price per minute varying according to the locale called.
Janette Millin, Innovative Telephone spokeswoman, said the long-distance company is a separate entity from the local service provider. Samuel Ebbesen remains the chief executive officer of the local phone company, but Peter Hayden is in charge of Innovative Long Distance.
Innovative, which has an exclusive franchise for local service, is relying heavily on its ready-made contacts for its advertising. Flyers sent out in this month's local-service phone bills informed customers of the long-distance service.
Millin said Innovative is also promoting the service in-house. Employees who sign up a friend or family member are entered in a sweepstakes contest for a myriad of prizes. And the company blitzed Carnival revelers who attended Pan-O-Rama Sunday night, handing out T-shirts and other materials introducing the service.
Millin referred questions on the technical aspects of the service and the reasons for the business decision to Hayden, but he was not immediately available Wednesday.
One industry representative said that because there is more off-island access now than there was a few years ago, and at a lower cost, long distance is viewed today as a more attractive business proposition.

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