Anonymous Comment on BTL Financials

June 30, 2006

“Anonymous” Says:

I work for one of the major Banks in Belize.  I have personally reviewed BTL’s financial statements.  They are not losing money in any segment of their business.  Although revenue remained flat year over year, this may be a product of not adapting to a changing market and finding new sources of revenue and add-on features.

If they paid more attention to internal fraud and settled legal battlles brewing over several owndership changes, they may find more profits than arguing over technology.

Mr. Boyce, in his own words stated that BTL could drop their international rates by 2/3 and still be profitable.  He publically admitted to ripping off the country when it comes to long distance.

Why is India such a hot spot?  Because they have a well educated population and cheap and fast fiber optic connections.  If a country like Belize is to succeed on the world market, an open stream of communications with the world is required.  If BTL wants to concern itself with their short-term profits, they will harm the rest of the country for years to come.

The country is at a crossroads and has some important choices to make.  The problem is not just cheap long-distance, the problem is how to keep Belize popular as a tourist destination, a business destination and a player in the world market.

Download BTL’s annual financial reports and see for yourself:

2005:  http://www.btl.net/Reports/financial-rep-2005.pdf 

2004:  http://www.btl.net/ann-2004/btl-fin-stat-2004.pdf 


Channel 5 – Telecom Chief Not Thrilled With VoIP Ruling

June 29, 2006

Original Story:

http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=16521 

But while the company is pleased with its success in parks, B.T.L. is peeved regarding the decision of the Public Utilities Commission regarding Voice over the Internet Protocol, VoIP. According to Boyce, they are still digesting the contents of the new policy and have asked for clarification of certain areas. But B.T.L. is warning consumers that while the P.U.C. verdict might translate into cheaper international calls, they also need to be aware of the consequences.

Dean Boyce, Chair, B.T.L. Executive Committee
“B.T.L. is making large profits on international and losing money on other local services. That has to be addressed, and it seems to be completely ignored in all of this. So we will talk to the P.U.C. and try to come to some kind of understanding, but that’s the issue. There’s no point in saying well we can bring people in who can provide lower international prices, that’s a really silly statement, because we can do it. If all we were doing is running an international business, we could do the same thing tomorrow. We could bring all the prices down by three quarters.”

Janelle Chanona
“But isn’t that competition? I mean, B.T.L. has been there for so long by itself.”

Dean Boyce
“But somebody has to then say to us, okay, you can increase the prices of services that you were charging to other remote locations where you are not making a profit, in fact you are losing large amounts of money. You charge them at cost plus. If somebody says to us, you can charge everybody at cost plus basis, that’s great. It’s nothing to do with competition. This is historically the policy of the government and the regulator to take money from one part of the community and subsidize another. I won’t say B.T.L. is exactly Robin Hood, but we’re not the Sheriff of Nottingham. Two years ago, three years ago, we implemented the G.S.M. project that cost sixty million dollars. So these are not small amounts of money. And we’re not just cherry picking Belize City, Orange Walk, the way that some people would like to, it’s the whole country and it’s very expensive. So I think that our track record will say that we’ve reinvested over the years.”

According to Boyce, B.T.L.’s next large capital investment will be a wireless network that will blanket the whole country. On Friday, the Public Utilities Commission ruled that while B.T.L. can block services such as Vonage, it must allow consumers to access subscriber programmes such as Skype, MSN and Yahoo messenger services.


Channel 7 – Local ISPs Will Offer Cheap Calls Using VoIP

June 29, 2006

Original Story:

http://www.7newsbelize.com/archive/06280608.html

The days of using Vonage to make cheap international calls may be over but that doesn’t have to be the end of cheap calls. Last Friday PUC Executive Chairman Gilly Canton said licensed internet service providers (ISP) can offer VoIP service. Today a group of internet service providers told us they are prepared to take the PUC’s word to the bank. The ten ISPs have formed a cooperative and plan to offer services like Vonage, meaning you’ll get a Belize number and you’ll be able to make local and international calls at a discount rate. Its only in the planning stages and one of the principals, Errol Cattouse told us more.

Errol Cattouse,
“We are going to roll out a Vonage type service. It will take some time. We have been doing some negotiations but now with the guidelines that the PUC has put out publicly now, we can go out and start negotiating with international providers to provides us with minutes.

It will be available to every Belizean that can get the service in their home and right now with the group of us, we pass through practically every single home in Belize. The practicality will be plug and play service. You come in, it will take us a half hour to get you connected and you can make a phone call.

What we’ll be able to do with our service is that we’ll be able to call each other within Belize or within the nation for that matter. And right now with Vonage if you want to call a Belize number you have to make an international call for that.”

Keith Swift,
So break down it for our viewers. The situation with Vonage in the States if that if you pay one monthly fee you have unlimited monthly calling. Ideally, will this service be that I’ll pay a monthly fee and I’ll have unlimited calling throughout Belize? Is that what this service will be like?

Errol Cattouse,
“That’s exactly right. That’s the way it will work.”

The internet service providers could roll out service in as early as three months.


Channel 7 – BTL: Lower Int’l Rates Will Mean Higher Local Rates

June 29, 2006

Original Story:

http://www.7newsbelize.com/archive/06280609.html 

And when it does and if it is successful, the competition could put a hurting on the incumbent which is BTL. The chair of BTL’s executive committee Dean Boyce today told us the company welcomes competition. Boyce however warned that a decrease in their revenues for international calls could have a domino effect on other services, meaning that the price of cellular and local calls could shoot up. Boyce says the issue was never about VoIP, it was and is about the cost of calls on other media.

Dean Boyce, Chairman of BTL’s Executive Committee
“This really isn’t a question of VoIP per say. The only reason people ere getting so excited about this is because they want to make cheap international calls. And if somebody said to us, ‘well okay guys you can charge everything on a cost first basis with reasonable profit margin on each service,’ then our international rates would come down but a lot of our local and domestic service will go up and that’s the real issue.

Let’s say I said, ‘sure we’ll offer that service.’ Would you be prepared to accept local access doubling and tripling? Would you be prepared to accept the cost of internet, where we’re losing money, to increase substantially which means that those people that do not normally make international calls are going to see their bills substantially increased. So you have to address that issue as well. It’s okay asking me but we are always portrayed as the bad guys but we have been implementing government policies for years and really somebody needs to address those issues.”

Keith Swift,
Is BTL blocking services like Skype?

Dean Boyce,
“We are providing an internet service and if our system will not allow access to some certain foreign service providers, then that is not really my concern.”

Keith Swift,
So the answer is yes.

Dean Boyce,
“We’ve talked to the PUC about how we doing and what we doing and its up to them to provide you with anything.”

The PUC indicated that BTL can block Vonage, but they would have to notify you first.


Love FM – BTL Analyzes Types Of VoIP Communication That Will Need License

June 29, 2006

Original Story:

http://lovefm.com/ndisplay.php?nid=4291&fromsrch=1

Last week the Public Utilities Commission issued its Voice over internet protocol regulatory policy and framework guidelines. In that paper the P-U-C categorized the types of VOIP communications that would need License. Today we spoke with BTL Executive Committee Chairman Dean Boyce who says BTL got the paper the same time as everyone else and is taking its time to analyze the paper presented by the P-U-C.

Dean Boyce, Chairman of Executive Committee, BTL.

“Most people are really missing the point entirely. It is not a question of technologies. BTL has been using internet protocol for carrying voice traffic both domestic and international for some time. The issue is solely one of price and traditionally BTL has been following government policy over many years in charging more for international as the underlying cost would justify and subsidizing some of the services in some locations and for some customer groups. Although international rates have come down, we’ve grown the market significantly over the last few years. It was only about four – five years ago where there was only the basic analog system, there was twenty five thousand customers. Now there is a hundred and twenty thousand cellular customers. The internet was at one time dial-up and was very slow and very highly priced and you had to pay for your usage on a permanent basis. Now it’s a flat fee and you choose the speed you want. It has changed enormously but over that time the balance between domestic profitability and international profitability has remained the same. We make all out profit from international and we loose money on domestic. Somebody needs to deal with that of an issue. If somebody said to us that all we need to do is to provide international service then we could charge extremely low international rates. but the problem we’ve got is if we do that then you have some increase in usage but nothing like as much you would need to cove the loses you then make.”


San Pedro Sun – PUC says BTL can block VoIP!

June 29, 2006

Original Story:

http://www.sanpedrosun.net/06-261.html 

After months of deliberations and discussion, the Belize Public Utilities Commission (PUC) released their recommendations of the use of Voice Over Internet Protocal (VoIP). The PUC decision allows Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL) to continue to block and disrupt most VoIP services. BTL must allow computer-based VoIP programs such as Skype, Yahoo talk and others, but can block services that include a telephone number (usually in the US), such as Vonage and Packet 8.

The PUC decision is a major disappointment for many business people who had relied on VoIP to reduce expenses in their businesses. It is also a blow to regular citizens who use this technology to make inexpensive phone calls to loved ones outside Belize.

The San Pedro Chamber of Commerce released their summary of the PUC as the following:

  • You can download and use internet voice programs as long as you do not acquire an assigned phone number.
  • If you want a “assigned telephone number” you must acquire it through a Belize licensed provider.
  • You can use an “adapter” or “internet phone handset” attached to your computer which creates a telephone-like use thru internet only if acquired through a Belize-licensed provider.
  • A Belize internet provider cannot create any restrictions to voice over internet (such as blocking or degradation) without informing you that they do so.
  • If the provider does place voice-use restrictions on your normal internet service, they must offer a “premium” service that does not have those restrictions.
  • The complete PUC recommendation can be viewed by clicking the “What’s News” tab on their website: http://www.puc.bz/

The PUC Press Release did not indicate any time when or if their recommendations must go into effect. Dr. Gilbert Canton, Chairman, Public Utilities Commission told reporters during a press conference on June 23rd, “We are hoping that this is just an interim situation and that the providers in Belize will start making those types of arrangements to offer a similar type of service in Belize.” Dr. Canton also commented about the state of technology, “It’s moving so fast, you put anything in place at this point in time it might be outdated a year from now. So let’s see where it’s all going to go and then once we are certain that it’s going there then we put something in place.”

In the meantime, many frustrated consumers continue to struggle with a single telephone provider, high telephone bills and slow-expensive Internet service.


When The Going Gets Tough… Encrypt!

June 27, 2006

Okay people. These latest developments indicate that we the paying consumers are considered futile, powerless peons by BTL/GOB/PUC. I have not tried any of these services, and therefore DO NOT ENDORSE THEM. These desktop VPN services will allow you to pass your VoIP client traffic to the US (in most cases) totally encrypted. In theory, they should work with Skype, Gizmo, Vonage Softphone etc. Test them out and let BFIC know if they work for you (if so, inform us privately at bficmail at gmail dot com). This WILL NOT HELP YOU if you have an ATA (analog adapter) system like Vonage or Packet 8.

You will see that most of the services are geared towards insecure wireless hotspots. Don’t worry about that, it will work with either a wired or wireless connection.

Most of them offer month-to-month and yearly plans. I would love if a few people signed up for the 1 month services and gave their reviews here.

PublicVPN

HotSpotVPN

WiTopia.Net

JiWire’s SpotLock