At least 1,000 and maybe as many as 2,000 telephone lines are down or malfunctioning in the St. Thomas-St. John district.
A V.I. Telephone Corp. employee said Monday that 2,000 phone lines need repair on the two islands. On Tuesday, a second person inside the telephone company confirmed there were "for sure" at least 1,000 lines down in the district.
On Friday, Nov. 19, the day after Hurricane Lenny finished its passage through the territory, a Vitelco press release advised the public that "latent effects of the storm" would start to affect telephone service soon "due to the corrosive effects of the salt spray."
The following Monday, Vitelco spokesperson Katrina White-Comissiong said repair crews worked over the weekend and most lines were in service on St. John and St. Thomas by Sunday. Comissiong told St. Thomas Source an update would be forthcoming, but she did not return repeated phone calls in recent days seeking information about the status of repairs.
One disgruntled Vitelco customer, who asked not to be named, said two of her three phone lines have been out for more than a week. When she called Vitelco on Nov. 22 to report this, she was given a Dec. 17 date for repair.
"I think that's unconscionable," she said.
Betty Story, another Vitelco customer with phone problems, called the repair department after the storm and was told she was scheduled for repair Dec. 3. When she called later to confirm the date, she said, the customer service representative told her "they didn't know when they would be in my area."
Upon calling a third time, Story was told she was scheduled for Dec. 6. When she questioned the changed date, the Vitelco employee told Story, "We have a million areas to cover."
Keithley Joseph, executive director of the Public Services Commission, said he hasn't received any complaints about Vitelco's repair performance or policies. He said he knew the phone company had made a statement Monday about equipment being damaged and thought the statement said the equipment would be fixed within 72 hours.
Joseph said customers are entitled to credit on their phone bills for all days they are without service. He said consumers should put their requests for credit in writing to Vitelco and send a copy to the PSC.
The 1999 Vitelco directory, on page 2, states that customers unable to use their telephones "for 24 hours or more due to a Vitelco service problem" are entitled to adjustments.
Consumers also have the right to know when their service will be restored, according to the PSC director.
"I can sympathize, "Joseph said. "I was without service from two days before Lenny and just now got it back."


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