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about the state of technology, “It’s moving so fast, you put anything in place at this point in time it might be outdated a year from now.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.