In certain circles, there's been quite the uproar in the past few weeks about BTL allegedly blocking access to websites which allow use of the Voice Over Internet Protocol or "VOIP." VOIP is used to make cheap, often free calls, over the internet. But it seems, "free paypa bun" and recently internet users have had problems accessing Vonage, Speak Easy, Skype, and even Yahoo and MSN messengers. Though BTL denies it, users claim that BTL is jamming the signal. The Public Utitlities Commission has scheduled a forum on VOIP for Wednesday where one lobby group sure to speak out will be the Belize Tourism Industry Association. They made their opposition known today to the PUC in a letter and they plan to do it in person on Wednesday at the forum. BTIA's Executive Director Andrew Godoy says the tourism industry stands to lose millions if access to VOIP is blocked.
Andrew Godoy, Executive Director – BTIA
"It will negatively affect their businesses, for those who it has affected already and for those who it will affect in the future because the industry does depend largely on this type of service for bookings and for ordering stuff so it will affect us. From the responses that we have received there are some members who have indicated in fact that they have lost business for April already because they could not get on to the services as they had in the past and they rely on these services largely for responding to the guests. Probably some guests felt that they weren't really interested in doing business with them because when they finally got on, it was too late.
There are other properties which are in remote areas of the country and who have to use dish and other means of getting on to the internet. For those properties, they rely on these types of services because they don't have access to land lines. By blocking the access to these services, it will affect their businesses."
BTL denies it, but do you believe that they are intentionally blocking access?
"I really don't want to speculate but I can say this though: clearly the move to do it is not in the best interest of the industry and in the best interest of Belizeans on a whole and, like one of the responses I got, somebody said BTL will be one of the most hated companies should they go ahead and do this."
Wednesday's forum will be held at the Radisson Hotel beginning at 9 am through to mid-day.