By Harry Lawrence – Publisher
It is clear to the man on the street that Belize Telemedia Limited may be acting under instructions from the man who says he no longer controls B.T.L., Mr. Michael Ashcroft.
Mr. Ashcroft is the only person who has an interest in silencing Channel 7 and Kremandala TV.B.T.L. supplies Channel 5 with fiber-optic cable access because it owns Channel 5.
B.T.L. does not own the fiber-optic cable line to Belize. But it is the only company with access to this line, through its corporate headquarters on St. Thomas Street.
B.T.L. paid a lot for this fiber-optic trunk-line connection, and the company is not now willing to share it with others who are not of its ilk.
The underwater fiber-optic line is owned by a provider who is willing to splice in another trunk line, but the fee for this service is U.S. one million.
There are compelling reasons why Belize should get this second link, and we shall try to explain them here:
1. Belize Telemedia Limited has a monopolistic strangle-hold on fiber-optics in Belize. It uses this strangle-hold to reward its friends and punish the competition.
2. B.T.L. uses its strangle hold to promote the Belize Bank and its operations, not only with cheap telephone calls and unlimited Internet access, but it holds the rest of the business community to ransom by:
(a) charging exhorbitant fees for domestic and overseas calls,
(b) refusing to offer voice over internet protocol in Belize, thereby stunting the growth of communications and other communication – related businesses.
(c) enjoying an ufair advantage over all other businesses, who are forced to pay B.T.L.’s high rates.
(d) allowing the Belize Bank, or some related entity operating from 60 Market Square to grab a large chunk of the fiber-optic capacity for the dot Bz domain-name activities such as on-line gambling and tele-marketing.
(e) Because these activities are regarded as offshore businesses, B.T.L. and its Belize Bank associates pay no taxes whatsoever on what is seen as a multi-million dollar empire of smut and gambling.
(f) B.T.L. has thus become a law unto itself; a corporation operating independently within a government, thumbing its nose at the government.
(g) Telecommunications is an essential industry. Those who control it control the country’s development.
Having a second fiber-optic trunk line would end the B.T.L. monopoly. It would open up VOIP options for the entire country. It would give new scope to independent competition in the media and to new telecommunication players who might want to come in. It would save the country and government millions of dollars in lower fees. A second fiber-optic trunk line would clip B.T.L.’s wings and usher in a new dawn of cheaper telecommunications.
There is one obstacle however – money!
But if the Government of Belize could find a way to partner with the private sector, perhaps they could together manage the down-payment for another fiber-optic trunk line, and share the profits.
It appears to be a gilt-edged investment.