And on the matter of Telemedia - one pressing issue has been the legalization of the Voice Over Internet Protocol, commonly known as VOIP. That's what enables internet users to access web-based phone services such as SKYPE and Vonage to call all over the world for free, or for a fraction of the cost that Telemedia and Smart charge.
Presently those services are blocked in Belize - and many wonder if government will liberalize the use of these VOIP providers - while others worry that if they do, BTL's profits will tumble - making it an unsure investment.
But really it's not government or Telemedia to decide, it's the regulator, the PUC, and at last Friday's press conference to launch the sale of BTL shares, Chairman of the PUC John Avery explained the policy position:
John Avery, Chairman PUC
"The PUC has never banned the use of VOIP. You have 2 voice operators in Belize and both of them currently use VOIP. The thing is our laws are clear; you cannot provide a telecommunication service in Belize unless you have a license to do so, and so I think this concept whenever we speak of VOIP we think about SKYPE or we think about Vonage and these other companies. They are not license in Belize, they don't pay any taxes in Belize and so they are not authorize do provide services in Belize. So I just wanted to clear that up. The current operators, there is no ban on the use of VOIP on them, they can use VOIP to make themselves more efficient or their services less costly that is up to them but the PUC cannot stand by nor any of the operators should stand by and allow unlicensed operators to provide services in Belize using their infrastructure and taking away their revenues."
It was also announced at Friday's press conference that the free doubling of internet bandwidth which was announced at the Prime Minister's Independence Day address will go into effect on November first. It means that for BTL internet users, whatever speed you currently have will be doubled for the same price…