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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesPSC Tackles Cable TV Complaints, Ferry Issues

PSC Tackles Cable TV Complaints, Ferry Issues

In a short meeting Tuesday, Public Services Commission members put St. Thomas’ head of Innovative Cable TV in the hot seat with questions about poor service that they said has been wracking the territory.
Commission members cited poor signal quality and pixilation problems, particularly on the lower channels and on higher standard or high-definition televisions. While Cable TV General Manager Debra Thomas-Smith said she wasn’t aware of any current outstanding issues, she did explain that the company would be better able to address the problems if they were reported directly.
Pixilation problems, for example, could be the result of corroded equipment that has been affected by the recent heavy rains. That equipment might need to be replaced, but in order for that to happen, Innovative has to be aware of it, Thomas-Smith said.
In the meantime, the company is looking at switching over to fully digitized converters that are expected to cut out problems with the boxes, she added. The company’s current equipment still has an analog tuner, which won’t exist in the new boxes, but there’s still some work to be done at the local studios, so the equipment might not be available until the end of the year or beginning of 2011, Thomas-Smith said.
Thomas-Smith also discussed the impending removal of WKAQ, which airs Spanish programming on channel 18 on St. Thomas and channel 13 on St. Croix. Thomas-Smith explained that the broadcaster asked Innovative to pull the channels immediately and added that Innovative is looking at pulling Telemundo into its expanded network, eliminating altogether the presence of a Spanish channel on basic cable.
Telemundo comes in on an encrypted satellite feed, which prevents it from airing on basic cable, Thomas-Smith explained after the meeting.
To report cable television problems, residents can dial 912 or if unsatisfied with the service, can then call Thomas-Smith at 776-2150.
Wrapping up Tuesday’s meeting, representatives from the district’s two franchise ferry companies — Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services — aired their financial woes before the commission, speaking again about drops in ridership, the need for government support and the challenges posed by private boat tours, which they said is hurting business.
While there is currently no formal request before the PSC for either rate changes or cuts to the schedules, Varlack Ventures principal Delrise Varlack explained that some smaller ferry companies have been brought in to run the route between downtown St. Thomas and St. John during the off-season, when passenger numbers are at their lowest. Varlack said later that the ferries have a longstanding request to the PSC for a reduced downtown schedule, which she has often asked to make permanent, since the fall months are historically slow.
Commission members responded to the testimony with some concerns of their own, saying they needed to see the company’s financials before any requests are considered.
"The ferries are on heavy watch until we get the financials," commission chairman Joseph Boschulte said. He said later that the ferries are about six to seven months behind on submitting their financials for fiscal year 2009.
Boschulte and board member Donald "Ducks" Cole said they were also concerned about reports that new ticket scanners at the terminals have essentially disappeared, keeping the ferry companies from keeping accurate track of passengers. Varlack said later that each company was issued two scanners, which are now gone — some appear to have fallen overboard as the crew moved around the boats — but will be replaced by stationary turnstiles once the terms are worked out with the V.I. Port Authority.
In the interim, Varlack said she has hired a security company to collect and process the tickets, issued by St. John Ticketing Co., which she said also has employees at the counters issuing the tickets. Once the numbers are processed, they are sent to the ferry companies for verification, then to the ticketing company for verification and payment, Varlack explained.
The only action PSC members took Tuesday was to subpoena the principals of V.I. SeaTrans, the franchise ferry company running the route between St. Thomas and St. Croix, to appear at the next commission meeting. SeaTrans was scheduled to appear Tuesday, but commission members said they had received an email a few hours before the meeting saying that no one could come.
Commission members present during Tuesday’s meeting were Boschulte, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Verne C. David and M. Thomas Jackson, who put in an appearance over the telephone. Absent were members Sirri Hamad and Elsie V. Thomas-Trotman.

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