Executives from the Caribbean’s phone companies are in Belize this week for the annual meeting of CANTO, the Caribbean Association of National Telecom providers. This is CANTO’s 23rd meeting, and in the two decades plus since it was formed, the telecommunications landscape has been completely re-shaped. In Belize alone, the number of telephone subscribers has increased many times over since this country first joined CANTO in 1985. But while there’s been exponential growth, in their remarks at last night’s opening, BTL CEO Dean Boyce and Prime Minister Said Musa, were cautious: they advocated restraint and even protection of BTL; because they say, if it has to compete with Vonage, that could send local rates up, even as international rates go down.
Dean Boyce – BTL’s CEO
“We now face, find ourselves faced by foreign operators delivering voice services in Belize without a network. The VoIP providers are seen by many as the way forward because they offer call rates into the USA for example that are equivalent to domestic rates. They do however create some potentially dangerous repercussions to the local tariff industry and the local industry unless it is carefully managed.
We already use this type of technology and in fact these VoIP providers are using our network to connect their calls. This is economic discussion. The foreign VoIP providers make no contribution at all to the local telecom infrastructure in Belize and the cost of building and maintaining that infrastructure. Instead they simply access Belizean customers over the infrastructure provided by local operators such as BTL.
If BTL is now expected to compete face to face directly with a U.S. service provider on U.S. terms, the Belize telecom industry is now a part of the U.S. telecom industry then we must and will take whatever steps are required to meet that head on. We will have no choice but prioritize our resources, to charge at a rate that will allow us to recover our costs and stop subsidizing access.”
Rt. Hon. Said Musa,
“It is important that Caribbean governments are able to control their own destines and develop according to our own agendas and not to the financial agenda of foreign operators that seek to export the wealth of our countries and to limit our ability to achieve full universal service.”
Both Boyce and PM Musa announced that BTL has applied to the PUC to install a wireless high speed internet platform across the country.