The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) today voted to take away the right for Vilaire Communications (VCI) to operate in Florida. The five-member panel found the company showed a lack of technical, financial, and managerial capability to operate a telecommunications company. A PSC audit discovered VCI overcharged customers for E911 calls and falsely obtained more than $1.3 million in funds earmarked to provide telephone service to low-income residents.
“The PSC is entrusted with making sure Florida’s landline telephone companies are operating in a responsible manner,” said PSC Chairman Matthew M. Carter II. “Customers trust we are watching out for them, and in this instance, it was in the customers’ best interest to revoke VCI’s certificate.”
Based in Lakewood, Washington, Vilaire Communications (VCI) is a competitive provider of landline telephone service in AT&T Florida’s territory statewide. VCI also was an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC), allowing it to obtain monies from the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) to provide Link-Up and Lifeline service to low-income telephone customers.
An audit by PSC staff found VCI was billing its customers 75 cents per month for an E911 fee. Florida Statutes state the E911 fee may not exceed 50 cents. The Commissioners have ordered the company to issue refunds to customers for the overbilled amount. A random sample of the company’s customers also indicated fictitious accounts for Lifeline service and questionable application of late fees.
AT&T Florida will take over VCI’s accounts on a temporary basis until customers choose a new provider. The PSC voted to forward the results of its investigation along with the Commission Order to the Administrator of the USF, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Department of Justice for further follow-up to recover federal Universal Service Funds obtained by VCI through misrepresentations made to the Administrator of the USF.
The PSC is committed to making sure that Florida's consumers receive their electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater services in a safe, affordable, and reliable manner. The PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in the areas of rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitors safety, reliability, and service.
For additional information, visit www.floridapsc.com.