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PRT Plans To Create One Calling Zone In P.R.

Company executive calls it inevitable result of calling-zone consolidation


June 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Tomas Perez Ducy, Puerto Rico Telephone’s (PRT) marketing vice president, acknowledged in an exclusive interview with CARIBBEAN BUSINESS that reducing the number of calling zones from 68 to 10 as part of the extended area zone (EAZ) plan is the first step toward creating one consolidated zone in Puerto Rico.

"We must take into account that long-distance doesn’t apply to cellphones for intraisland calls. We should be moving in that direction for all phones," said Perez. "This is something all local communities are demanding. People in the western and eastern regions are already saving money through EAZ."

The EAZ initiative started with the creation of the Mayaguez, Aguadilla, and Vieques zones. On Monday, Caguas, Dorado, Toa Alta, Loiza, and Canovanas were consolidated into the [San Juan] metro area. Several weeks ago, however, the Telecommunications Regulatory Board (TRB) put the process on hold after Sprint and AT&T demanded further studies on the consequences EAZ will have on consumers and the industry.

Although the community at large was invited to attend hearings, some experts question how thorough the analysis was. "The PRT has lobbied to confuse consumers," said Patricia Eaves, vice president & general manager of Sprint Caribe. "None of the people who gave opinions was a telecommunications expert. They aren’t considering the impact this is going to have a year from now."

Eaves was referring to PRT’s possible plans to compensate operational costs by gradually increasing rates on local calls. "In a few months, we will see how rates will shoot up," she said. "With one zone, the PRT will have to find ways to offset costs and the loss of intraisland calls. This will have an impact, but the PRT has failed to give specifics on it."

The PRT is also preparing to compete with cable companies venturing into telecommunications. "It would be interesting to know how it is possible for a cable company to still offer cheaper rates than the PRT when Cristina Lambert is saying the PRT will save the consumer 40% to 50% on intraisland calls," said Eaves.

According to Perez, the PRT doesn’t expect to reduce the number of zones to one until after consumers have had a chance to get used to the new zoning system and the increased monthly zoning fee, which the PRT will gradually raise to $2.25 by 2006.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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