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#339094 - 05/27/09 02:28 PM Time for the Belize govt to end telecom monopoly
Marty Offline
COMMENTARY: High time for the Belize government to end telecoms monopoly

By Wellington C. Ramos

When the People’s United Party gave the company of Michael Ashcroft BTL, the sole authority to control the telecommunications industry in Belize, that was a decision that benefitted them and their own self interest against the citizens of Belize. When I visit Belize, it is hard for me to accept the fact that many Belizeans have a telephone in their house and cannot make a telephone call because they are afraid of the huge cost to them if they make too many calls. Their telephone is just sitting there like an ornament in their homes. Many of them have to wait for somebody to give them a few dollars to go and buy some minutes to use their telephones.

The cards are sold by the same people who have them paying a monthly bill for the telephone they cannot use. If they were to reduce their monthly rates, the money to buy the cards could be used to make regular telephone calls. Since the companies are making money the way it is now, they refuse to fix the problem to benefit the consumers. Most students in schools today need to get on the Internet to obtain updated information to do their research assignments for their courses. Many families in Belize cannot afford the telephone and cable rates so their children depend on the Internet cafes to go and get on the Internet to do their school work. A majority of the libraries in Belize do not have updated books and materials for the students to gather information to complete their assignments.

The Supreme Court in Belize has now ruled that the contract that was signed with the past government and BTL was illegal. Since that ruling is now official, the contract is no longer valid and cannot be enforced. The Belize government can now decide to open up the bidding process for other companies to come to Belize and compete with BTL or consider not allowing them to continue operating in Belize.

This company over the years was even refusing to pay their taxes, despite the fact that they were making millions of dollars from the Belizean consumers. The Belize government has an obligation to the citizens of Belize and not to BTL. The citizens of Belize should be given affordable and reliable services at all times. Whenever any company fails to meet this important test, then it is time for the government of Belize to re-examine their contractual obligations.

Economics teach us that competition is good for the consumers because it will create a climate where these businesses will always compete among themselves to provide reliable, affordable and dependable service. It also will lower the cost of the commodity that the supplier is making available to the consumers. Currently, we have BTL as a monopoly and that is not good for the consumers. They are the only company in this business and if they fail to provide a needed service, the Belizean people will be affected severely when they need to use the service

A good example is tuning in to the radio stations from the United States. There are many days when we are trying to access them and cannot and when we get through we constantly get cut off again. The electrical company in Belize is also causing a lot of problems to the country of Belize and I am against having a foreign country control our electrical supply because that will seriously affect our national security.

If I was to tell somebody that a company from Mexico is controlling our electrical supply and we can get cut off whenever the subsidiary company in Belize does not meet their obligation, they would laugh at me. I just hope that all the agencies that are part of our national security network have generators to back us up in the event of a national security crisis.

With this Guatemalan threat constantly going on, we need to get back control of our electricity so that we can control our own switch. Yet, based on the information I have received from reliable sources, this is the case with the electrical supply in Belize. In the past government, they got rid of a lot of governmental services by deregulating the governmental departments and creating family-controlled monopolies. Those families are the same families that had a stake in everything at the expense of most Belizeans.

Belize does not belong to a few Belizean families, but all Belizean families. Now this government must not have no fear in taking back Belize from these families and give our country back to all of us who make up the majority of people in this country. Belizeans are not foolish people and they are not going to tolerate all this foolishness that occurred under the previous People’s United Party government.

This new administration is trying hard to clean up the mess they inherited but litigation and legislation must be the focus. While the court is doing its part in making their decisions on those illegal contracts, the government must table legislation to correct all those injustices that happened under the previous administration. The issue of deregulation of our industries is one that is worth being debated in our country because the impact of that deregulation is damaging to our citizens.

The cards are sold by the same people who have them paying a monthly bill for the telephone they cannot use. If they were to reduce their monthly rates, the money to buy the cards could be used to make regular telephone calls. Since the companies are making money the way it is now, they refuse to fix the problem to benefit the consumers. Most students in schools today need to get on the Internet to obtain updated information to do their research assignments for their courses. Many families in Belize cannot afford the telephone and cable rates so their children depend on the Internet cafes to go and get on the Internet to do their school work. A majority of the libraries in Belize do not have updated books and materials for the students to gather information to complete their assignments.

The Supreme Court in Belize has now ruled that the contract that was signed with the past government and BTL was illegal. Since that ruling is now official, the contract is no longer valid and cannot be enforced. The Belize government can now decide to open up the bidding process for other companies to come to Belize and compete with BTL or consider not allowing them to continue operating in Belize.

This company over the years was even refusing to pay their taxes, despite the fact that they were making millions of dollars from the Belizean consumers. The Belize government has an obligation to the citizens of Belize and not to BTL. The citizens of Belize should be given affordable and reliable services at all times. Whenever any company fails to meet this important test, then it is time for the government of Belize to re-examine their contractual obligations.

Economics teach us that competition is good for the consumers because it will create a climate where these businesses will always compete among themselves to provide reliable, affordable and dependable service. It also will lower the cost of the commodity that the supplier is making available to the consumers. Currently, we have BTL as a monopoly and that is not good for the consumers. They are the only company in this business and if they fail to provide a needed service, the Belizean people will be affected severely when they need to use the service

A good example is tuning in to the radio stations from the United States. There are many days when we are trying to access them and cannot and when we get through we constantly get cut off again. The electrical company in Belize is also causing a lot of problems to the country of Belize and I am against having a foreign country control our electrical supply because that will seriously affect our national security.

If I was to tell somebody that a company from Mexico is controlling our electrical supply and we can get cut off whenever the subsidiary company in Belize does not meet their obligation, they would laugh at me. I just hope that all the agencies that are part of our national security network have generators to back us up in the event of a national security crisis.

With this Guatemalan threat constantly going on, we need to get back control of our electricity so that we can control our own switch. Yet, based on the information I have received from reliable sources, this is the case with the electrical supply in Belize. In the past government, they got rid of a lot of governmental services by deregulating the governmental departments and creating family-controlled monopolies. Those families are the same families that had a stake in everything at the expense of most Belizeans.

Belize does not belong to a few Belizean families, but all Belizean families. Now this government must not have no fear in taking back Belize from these families and give our country back to all of us who make up the majority of people in this country. Belizeans are not foolish people and they are not going to tolerate all this foolishness that occurred under the previous People’s United Party government.

This new administration is trying hard to clean up the mess they inherited but litigation and legislation must be the focus. While the court is doing its part in making their decisions on those illegal contracts, the government must table legislation to correct all those injustices that happened under the previous administration. The issue of deregulation of our industries is one that is worth being debated in our country because the impact of that deregulation is damaging to our citizens.




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#339165 - 05/28/09 12:01 AM Re: Time for the Belize govt to end telecom monopoly [Re: Marty]
jungletrash Offline
BTL cut off all the phones about 3 or so years ago for almost a week,when a country has a monoply in the phone and electricity, it can tell the governement what to do, they can cut off the phone system and turn the juice off on all of us Belizeans. Even our GOB has no choice in either electricity or phone systems.

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#339170 - 05/28/09 12:24 AM Re: Time for the Belize govt to end telecom monopoly [Re: jungletrash]
ragman Offline
Competition through deregulation is the solution. My town had one cable provider till last year. All of a sudden we have more services and you can negotiate price with them. It should work the same way for a country.

Depending on Electricity from another country is a bad situation in my opinion. Even a friendly country. Trying to enforce contracts internationally could be a night mare.
_________________________
Jim
Somewhere on a beach in Belize

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#339177 - 05/28/09 01:18 AM Re: Time for the Belize govt to end telecom monopoly [Re: ragman]
deadserious Offline
Originally Posted By: ragman
Competition through deregulation is the solution


I generally agree. In this case though, the monopoly was already deregulated. Anyone can compete with BTL, but unfortunately, they own the only connectivity to the outside world. They invested in the Carribenet fiber network that connects Belize to the outside world. There is not another one to be built. It was done with the cooperation of companies in each cooperating country and any connectivity to the network goes through BTL.

For someone to compete in Belize, they would have to wire into Guatemala or Mexico and pay for the new backbone into Belize. Very cost prohibitive for a population of 300k of which not all will be your customers.
_________________________
Now back to your regularly scheduled drivel...

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#339178 - 05/28/09 01:22 AM Re: Time for the Belize govt to end telecom monopoly [Re: deadserious]
ragman Offline
ds, Thanks for the understanding. I tried to apply a USA solution to a different set of circumstances. Even in my small town it must have cost a fortune to run all the fiber optics that they ran so I can immediately see your point.

My comment on Electricity, I'll stand by.


Edited by ragman (05/28/09 01:27 AM)
Edit Reason: electicity
_________________________
Jim
Somewhere on a beach in Belize

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#339268 - 05/28/09 03:43 PM Re: Time for the Belize govt to end telecom monopoly [Re: deadserious]
Peter Jones Offline
Originally Posted By: deadserious
Anyone can compete with BTL, but unfortunately, they own the only connectivity to the outside world. They invested in the Carribenet fiber network that connects Belize to the outside world. There is not another one to be built. It was done with the cooperation of companies in each cooperating country and any connectivity to the network goes through BTL.

For someone to compete in Belize, they would have to wire into Guatemala or Mexico and pay for the new backbone into Belize. Very cost prohibitive for a population of 300k of which not all will be your customers

This demonstrates how badly the deregulation was designed and introduced. In Britain we had the same scenario, with a monopoly provider, but when that monopoly was dismantled it was required that the company that owned the physical infrastructure rent usage of that infrastructure to any other companies wishing to compete, at rental rates determined by an over-seeing regulatory authority. That is what needs to be done here, albeit a year or two later than it should have been.

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#339360 - 05/28/09 11:38 PM Re: Time for the Belize govt to end telecom monopoly [Re: Peter Jones]
Texican Offline
"When the People’s United Party gave the company of Michael Ashcroft BTL, the sole authority to control the telecommunications industry in Belize, that was a decision that benefitted them and their own self interest against the citizens of Belize." Let's see, what are the names of all the other companies that were interested in investing in Belize telecommunications?
"This new administration is trying hard to clean up the mess they inherited but litigation and legislation must be the focus."
There was a time not long ago when Barrow was kinda cozy with Ashcroft.
"The citizens of Belize should be given affordable and reliable services at all times." And why not? If Obama man can do then Barrow should too.


Edited by Texican (05/28/09 11:59 PM)
Edit Reason: cosy with a z

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