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PSC Survey Seeks Input on Broadband Demand

Aug. 3, 2004 – Residents of the Virgin Islands are being asked to participate in a survey to assess the need for access to high-speed DS-3 telephone lines in the territory.
The Public Services Commission, which is conducting the survey, will accept comments until Aug. 15 from businesses, government agencies and the public in general on the need for such lines, which provide users high-speed Internet access.
Currently, Innovative Telephone owns the only broadband lines in the territory, and it does not make them available for other entities' use.
The federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, intended to foster competition, requires existing telecommunications carriers, upon reasonable request, to interconnect directly with the facilities and equipment of other carriers.
Choice Communications, a local Internet service provider, tried for about two years to get the Public Services Commission to order Innovative to lease DS-3 lines to it – at regular retail rates – but the PSC declined to do so at hearing in May.
The commission followed the recommendations of its hearing examiner for the case, Rosalie Simmonds-Ballentine, who said Choice had failed to show a public demand or need for access to the DS-3 lines.
Commission members told Choice representatives at the May hearing that if they could show public demand for the high-speed lines, they would reverse their decision. (See "PSC Denies Choice Request for Bandwidth Access".)
Now, almost three months later, the commission has undertaken a survey to assess the market for DS-3 lines in the territory. It is soliciting written comments on "the needs, demand for and availability of DS-3 facilities in the territory."
Sandra Setorie, PSC assistant executive director, said on Tuesday that the commission decided to conduct the survey because several members had received phone calls from business owners and individuals expressing interest. Also, she said, several senators told the PSC that their constituents had expressed interest in DS-3 access.
"The PSC determined to assess whether there is a need for the service," Setorie said.
In addition to running notices in the media this week soliciting public comment, she said, the PSC is contacting various businesses and agencies directly for input.
It the comments received indicate a need and desire for the DS-3 service, "the commission may reverse its decision" regarding Choice's bid for access to Innovative's lines, Setorie said.
Setorie said Choice and Innovative were not formally notified that the survey is being undertaken, but they were aware of the PSC's decision to conduct one. Both parties will be given the opportunity to comment, Setorie said.
Choice attorney Maria Tankenson Hodge was unavailable for comment.
Posted on the Source is the PSC announcement soliciting input from telecommunications/Inernet users, "Public Services Commission Request for Public Comment". Responses can be posted by e-mail to the PSC.
Those wishing to respond also can submit their comments until Aug. 15 by postal mail to the Public Services Commission, PO Box 7360 Sunny Isle, Christiansted VI 00823-7360, or by fax to 778-0302 Comments also can be dropped off the PSC's offices at Barbel Plaza on St. Thomas, at Sunny Isle on St. Croix and at the Battery in the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department office on St. John.

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