PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting VIDEO

May 20, 2006

This post will be updated with more video parts as they are encoded and uploaded to Google Video. Immediately after clicking the below links, the stream will start. You can also choose to download the video by clicking on "DOWNLOAD" button on the right side of the page. If the stream is slow to load, keep dragging the play cursor back to the left to allow for more of the video to buffer.

BFIC recommended sections are highlighted in GREEN.

Belize PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting Section 1.1

  • Welcome / Consumer Participation Brief – Ms. Danalyn Myvette
  • Sector Overview – Mr. Roberto Young
  • The International Perspective – Dr. Wim Van Dijk

Belize PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting Section 1.2

  • The International Perspective – Dr. Wim Van Dijk (Continued)
  • A Legal Perspective – Mr. Kevin Arthurs

Belize PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting Section 1.3

  • A Legal Perspective – Mr. Kevin Arthurs (Continued)

Belize PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting Section 2.1

  • A Legal Perspective – Mr. Kevin Arthurs (Continued)
  • An Education Perspective – Mr. Kevin Harris
  • An ISP Perspective – Mr. Michael Kong

Belize PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting Section 2.2

  • An ISP Perspective – Mr. Michael Kong (Continued)
  • A Business Perspective – Mr. Gustavo Giron / Mr. Israel Marin
  • A Citizen's Perspective – Mr. Niall Gillet

Belize PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting Section 3.1

  • Audience Comments

Belize PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting Section 3.2

  • Audience Comments

Belize PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting Section 3.3

  • Audience Comments

Belize PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting Section 4.1

  • Audience Comments

Belize PUC 4/26/06 VoIP Meeting Section 4.2

  • Audience Comments

BTL hints at “webtalk”, new PC to phone calling service

May 18, 2006

Original Story:


BTL Celebrates Telecom Day

Today is World Telecommunications Day, a worldwide celebration of all things telecom, except, we imagine VoIP. And for Belize's telecom giant the party was at the City Center. BTL held its annual open day where primary and high school students visited and played trivia games, won prizes, and learned about the green machine in all its magisterial corporate splendor. BTL's Public Relations Manager Suzette Tillet told us more.

Suzette Tillet,
"Well BTL is once again celebrating World Telecom Day where we display our products and services and also future services that the company plans to offer. Some for the future include, we presently have GPRS, which is the DigiCell data. What we re going to do is we are going to expand that service to include roaming so you will also have GPRS roaming and another service we are going to be shortly promotion is our international MMS when you will be able to send a MMS from Belize to anywhere in the world. The next service, which is a future service, will be one that is called a webtalk where you will be able to make a phone call from your PC to a phone."

The Reporter Editorial – BTL and Ashcroft’s Greed

May 15, 2006

Original Story:


By Harry Lawrence – Publisher

Belize Telecommunications Limited started out as a public company with strict guidelines. No one person or organisation was allowed to own more than 25% of the company.

Then the Prime Minister George Price did something he had no authority to do. He gave permission to Michael Ashcroft, to own more than 25% of the shares.

Since then Ashcroft has waged an unrelenting campaign to dominate the company and to use it for his personal enrichment.

Under Ashcroft B.T.L. dominated the Internet, and was actively opposed to any competition from antennae.

He also opposed any competition from rival telephone companies.When Glen Godfrey with Government backing sought to confront him on the monopoly question, Ashcroft refused to provide inter-connection and forced Godfrey out of business and into receivership.

After Godfrey’s Intelco company was dead, Ashcroft made an alliance with politician John Brice?o and allowed him to set up a subsidiary telephone company named Smart.

Smart competes actively with B.T.L. for the country’s cellular business, but B.T.L. still owns the core business of standard telephone service and still dominated the Internet.

B.T.L.’s domination of the internet allows it to control Voice over Internet Protocol or VOIP, which is the route to cheaper international telephone calls.

B.T.L. is opposed to VOIP, not because it cannot find a way to introduce it profitably, but because it would prevent Ashcroft from maximising his profits.

Ashcroft chooses instead to keep on making huge profits at the expense of all Belizeans by charging unrealistically high rates for international telephone calls. The company itself uses VOIP to make more money, but in its view VOIP is much too good a thing to pass on to those simple-minded Belizeans.

In his benchmark address last week to the B.T.I.A., Investment Minister Mark Espat pointed out that VOIP is not illegal in Belize. “What is illegal is B.T.L.’s blocking of VOIP,” he points out.

VOIP is an important tool for the business community. Its value for easy and cheap access to the world outside is incalculable. Yet Ashcroft has been successful in blocking this access. And the Musa Government and the PUC have been willing to stand aside and have him do it.

To Musa and his minions the millions of dollars which Ashcroft provides in campaign contribution outweigh the greater good of the country.

Twenty-four years after independence our Belizean democracy has morphed into a cheap and disgraceful stratagem of catering to the highest bidder.

Channel 5 – Mark Espat Speaks Up On VoIP

May 15, 2006

Original Story:


BTIA Press Release


Mark Espat, Minister of National Development:

“We all know that VOIP is not illegal in Belize and it should not be made illegal. Forty-nine countries in fact have legalised VOIP. What is illegal is B.T.L.’s blocking of VOIP. VOIP has emerged because of the exorbitant cost of long distance calls, in fact B.T.L. itself employs Voice Over Internet Technology and should offer this service to Belizeans at globally competitive rates. B.T.L.’s ownerships appears to be clinging to the past mainly to protect profits, but the march of technology and the tide of personal freedom that brought us from the Morris Code to the Telex to the fax machine to the email cannot and will not be halted. And so the Public Utilities Commission is oblige, I believe, if they are to remain relevant, to defend the interest of the consumers including the tourism related consumers.”

Skype – Free calls to all landlines and mobile phones within the US and Canada

May 15, 2006

Full Press Release:


If you’re in the US or Canada, you can use SkypeOut to call any landline or mobile number in both the USA and Canada for free.

If you’re in the US or Canada and calling any other country, OR if you’re in any other country and calling landline or mobile numbers in the US or Canada, the standard SkypeOut rates apply.

Of course, Skype-to-Skype calls continue to be globally free, so no changes there.

Amandala – Stop Blocking VoIP, Angry Customers Tell BTL

May 5, 2006

Original Story:


BTL violating consumer privacy

Free up the Internet! That was the message for telecommunications giant, the Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL), at today’s forum on “The Opportunities and Threats of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in Belize,” held by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) at the Radisson Fort George Hotel in Belize City.

BTL’s recent blocking of VoIP communications—conversing via Internet technology—has angered a large number of local users, who argue that BTL is illegally limiting their use of broadband Internet services, through which they access VoIP services from foreign providers.

BTL sells the service directly to customers, as well as to other smaller providers in Belize. So far we have not heard BTL’s position on the matter, though we have tried to engage them. Like SpeedNet, BTL did not make a presentation at the forum, though the PUC said they invited them.

The PUC has also not presented a position regarding BTL’s blocking of VoIP communications, but its chairman, Dr. Gilbert Canton, has declared that it is legal to use VoIP technology in Belize, just not the way it is being done. The only entities licensed to provide VoIP services in Belize, said Canton, are BTL and SpeedNet.

Though the major phone companies were absent from the head table this morning, there were four panelists representing a wide cross-section of stakeholders. They were Kevin Harris for the University of Belize; Michael Kong for the Internet Service Providers (ISP’s); Israel “Pie” Marin for the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI); and Niall Gillett, technology consultant and chairman of Burrell Boom Village, representing Belizean citizens.

Gillett pointed to part 2, Section 12 (1) of the Belize Constitution—the country’s supreme law.

That section states: “Except with his own consent, a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his correspondence.”

Gillett’s opinion is that BTL’s blocking of VoIP communications is a violation of this constitutional right of citizens.

Harris said that not only is BTL’s blocking of VoIP, hampering learning via Internet, it is also hampering the country’s overall economic growth. He said that VoIP is a necessary tool for e-learning and online education. Because of the nature of VoIP, it enables users to take advantage of voice, data and video technology, while affording them cheaper rates and more effective communications, he added.

Harris said that the countries that have blocked VoIP include North Korea, China, some monarchies and dictatorships in the Middle East, and Belize. The United States, along with most countries in Central America, the Caribbean and Europe, allow VoIP communications.

He recommended that all VoIP blocks be removed “immediately,” to encourage e-learning and long distance education.

Harris noted that blocking VoIP requires that BTL monitors a customer’s use of the Internet, and, in his opinion, this violates consumer privacy.

Internet Service Providers should not be concerned with consumers’ use of their purchased bandwidth, he asserted.

Marin, who presented the perspectives of BCCI members gathered via questionnaires e-mailed to them, said that banning VoIP won’t cause it to go away. Members are concerned that BTL’s blocking of VoIP is not allowing fair competition and it also limits the ability of businesses to grow and to compete in international markets, he further stated.

Marin encouraged the PUC to allow regulated services.

Dr. Colin Young of Galen University said that consumers choose based on price and quality, and hence the demand for VoIP.

PUC consultant, Dr. Wim van Dijk of Netherlands Telecom Consulting, presented an international perspective. He said that there are basically two approaches that incumbents like BTL tend to employ when VoIP is introduced: (1) hinder its usage and hope that it will go away or (2) get with the times and make changes in their network to accommodate the technology.

However, a number of speakers pointed out that BTL is already making use of VoIP with the 10-10-199 services it offers for discounted international calls. Still, it does not retail VoIP services to Belizeans, as does VONAGE in the United States.

Another PUC consultant, Kevin Arthurs, presented his legal opinion on the issue. Arthurs decidedly told the gathering that the PUC should welcome VoIP—and it appears to be mandated to welcome—the introduction of VoIP in Belize. Among the benefits to Belizeans, he said, are that consumers would have new and innovative services, better prices as well as greater competition in the telecommunications market.

George Hardy, the president and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Hotel and Casino in the Corozal Commercial Free Zone, said that his company pays $1,200 a month for Internet access, even though they have yet to fully use the services, and the provider should not dictate what they do on the Internet.

Even the Government can save with VoIP, said Allan Sharp of the Association of Concerned Belizeans. He said that the Government could substantially cut down on its phone bill by using VoIP to communicate between offices countrywide. VoIP also creates more opportunities for expanding services into rural areas, Sharpe added.

One of the threats he pointed to, however, was the possibility of unscrupulous people setting up in Belize and running phone card scams under fly-by-night operations.

“The biggest threat is only being felt by BTL,” he remarked.

According to Dr. van Dijk, incumbents like BTL stand to lose as much as 20% of their revenues with the introduction of VoIP services.

Still, the overwhelming sentiment was that that is not a problem for consumers. The technology is there and it should be available to those who want to use it, they echoed.

“Regulate, not terminate,” said Michael Kong of the ISP Association. He remarked that the PUC should allow ISP’s to deliver VoIP services to consumers. Give ISP’s the authority to roll out the infrastructure, Kong encouraged, while appealing to the PUC to reach a definite and prompt position on the matter.

As to the issue of tax avoidance, Kong said that a system should be put in place to ensure that the Government of Belize collects tax revenues.

Arturo “Tux” Vasquez, the head of BTL’s corporate and retail sales, who also sits as the president of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, attended the forum and sat in the audience.

Vasquez questioned whether the other costs associated with VoIP, such as the cost of power, the computer system, lights and the other things that are used in VoIP communications, are factored into price comparisons with regular phone services. On the issue of tax revenue, Vasquez said that those who use VoIP pay foreign service providers by credit card, and taxes for those services aren’t paid to GOB. Conversely, he said, BTL pays a 19% business tax to the Government of Belize.

In answer to this, Harris pointed to suggestions from various panelists that VoIP should be a service from which Government derives tax revenues.

The forum’s moderator, Danalyn Myvett, PUC’s director of consumer affairs, emphasized repeatedly that there needs to be organized representation for consumers in Belize. She suggested that some of those who participated in the forum should get together and organize such an agency. She also said that while the PUC is mandated to protect consumer rights, it cannot advocate for them. A consumer agency is needed to carry out that role, she asserted.

Skype Introduces New Edition Of Its Internet Calling Software

May 4, 2006

Original Story (Huge Press Release – Read The Entire Story):

New functionality further improves the way people worldwide talk on the Internet

LUXEMBOURG, MAY 3, 2006 – Skype, the global Internet communications company, today released the beta version of Skype 2.5, the newest edition of its software that allows anyone with an Internet connection to make free worldwide voice and video calls. With new features and enhanced functionality, Skype now makes it even easier to set up a Skype account and to call and stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues for free.

As part of the new software enhancements, registration is simplified for new Skype customers and dialling traditional phone numbers is more intuitive, making calls to landlines or cell phones anywhere in the world easy and affordable. Features such as improved conference calling offer excellent voice quality and make it a natural way to stay in touch. Simple prompts while Skyping allow users to adjust how they manage their internet connection to ensure they have the best possible call quality. Other new functionality includes built-in, localized payment options, now in over 15 currencies.

“Skype has always focused on making it easy for people to have conversations for as long as they like, anywhere in the world, for free. We want to make Internet calling incredibly straightforward so people can effortlessly stay in touch,” said Niklas Zennström, CEO of Skype. “With the latest version of Skype’s award-winning software we’ve listened to our customers and made it even easier for communities of people to connect and easily talk to each other for free.”