There's a meeting Wednesday morning at the Radisson Hotel in Belize City and while it is being billed as a simple public discussion, the ramifications are huge. It's all about VOIP–voice over internet protocol–and you don't need to be a computer expert to know that this technology, which enables people to make low cost international phone calls, is becoming extremely popular in Belize. But one man's cheap telecommunications are another man's–or in this case company's–lost revenues. B.T.L. is complaining that it's losing millions to the discount VOIP services like Vonage and it is believed that the company is seeking to have the practice declared illegal. We say believed because B.T.L. is not talking, not yet anyway. Numerous requests by News Five to the company have been met by a stone wall of no comment. What we do know is that B.T.L. has purchased very expensive anti-VOIP software and for the last few months has been testing it in an effort to block the discount communication. Experts tell News Five that the B.T.L. computers look at every data packet in its routers to see if they contain VOIP. If they do then the message is intercepted before it gets to the Vonage server and instead of a phone connection, the caller is fed a busy signal. We are informed that the software does not stop every VOIP call, but it is not certain if this is because of system overload or defects in the programme itself. One side effect of the massive filtering process is said to be a slowdown in all B.T.L. internet service and a general degradation of the nation's internet network.
Again, all aspects of VOIP will be up for discussion and since it called the meeting the Public Utilities Commission is presumably interested in what the public has to say. We say presumably because we don't know what promises, if any, government has made to B.T.L. When Jeffrey Prosser sought to buy the company Belmopan promised him to ban VOIP, as well as give him other valuable concessions … but that is another story. The meeting starts at nine in the Caracol Room at the Radisson.