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#45501 - 11/15/01 03:58 PM BTL unveils new rate structure to maintain profits
Marty Offline
They have been talking about it for months, but today
Belize Telecommunications Limited finally lowered the
boom on Belizean consumers. Disguised as a tariff
rebalancing, BTL today announced a new rate
structure, which will drastically raise the cost of living


for both residential and business customers. What the
monopoly telecom has done is to essentially double
rates for line rental and local calls, while reducing
international and cellular service by approximately
twenty-five percent. The breakdown is as follows:


Line installation rises from ninety dollars to a
hundred. Phone rental climbs from two to five dollars a
month, while line maintenance for residential
customers jumps from eight dollars a month to
twenty, an increase of one hundred and fifty percent.
Business consumers are not spared, as their monthly
charge for each phone line catapults from twenty
dollars to an astronomical fifty. And that's just for
openers. Once you actually use your phone to place a
local call, the tab will now double to ten cents a
minute instead of five.


On the other side of the equation--the side BTL
prefers to emphasise--some rates will drop. Long
distance calls within the country will be reduced from
twenty-five and fifty-five cents per minute for zones
one and two, to twenty and forty cents respectively.
International calls to the U.S. fall substantially from
two seventy-five to one seventy-five per minute. But
calls to the Caribbean, Central America, Canada and
the rest of the world come down by less then ten
percent.


Cellular is another area for lower rates, with a drop in
activation and access fees, as well as per minute
charges, which will fall from seventy cents to fifty-five
during business hours and from forty to thirty during
off peak time. Those rates, however, are for standard
cellular; the more popular prepaid service goes down
by just nine cents to a still punishing ninety cents per
minute.


It is the new charges for internet service that users
will find most disappointing. While the monthly access
fee charge drops from forty dollars to twenty-four, the
previously free first eight hours will now be paid
for...and instead of the old four dollar per hour rate,
web surfers will pay ten cents a minute--the
equivalent of six dollars per hour. After twelve hours
of use, the rate drops to five cents per minute, but
that will provide savings only for the biggest internet
users. Sample calculations done by News 5 indicate
that typical twelve hours per month internet
customers will see their bill rise from fifty-six to
ninety-eight dollars monthly, while even thirty-six
hours per month users will pay one hundred and
sixty-eight dollars instead of one hundred and
fifty-two.


At this point, a number of questions arise. The first is
"why?" The answer is simple. By its own admission,
when BTL's monopoly ends at the end of next year its
most likely competition will come in the areas of
cellular and international calls, services for which
prices world-wide have been dropping like bombs over
Afghanistan. So BTL's rate cuts here are just a
pre-emptive strike to anticipate the competition. But
in the local service, where new competition is
doubtful, BTL feels free to jack up the rates as
Belizeans will have no choice but to stick with the
green giant. Thus while BTL's profits may fall on
cellular and international calls, any losses will be more
than balanced by increased revenue on the local side.


What, then, one may ask, is the problem? Don't the
increases and decreases balance out? The problem is
that with radically improved technology, Belizeans
should expect their overall communications costs to
drop, like those around the world. Under BTL's plan,
they will not only not drop, but will in fact rise. But
the worst part is that BTL's latest moves are not
meant to salvage the position of a struggling utility
earning profits of a lacklustre five, ten or fifteen
percent on revenues. Instead, they are meant to
preserve the status quo of what may be the most
consistently profitable publicly held utility in the
world; one which regularly earns profits of fifty cents
on every dollar it collects and has rewarded its
shareholders with annual dividends in excess of thirty
percent. All of this at the expense of the Belizean
consumer.


And in case any viewer is wondering where the Public
Utilities Commission is in all this mess, we are told by
P.U.C. chairman, Gilly Canton that the supposed
watchdog has been neutered by the terms of BTL's
licence granted in 1988. That licence merely requires
that BTL inform the minister of its intentions and does
not give the minister--in this case Ralph Fonseca--the
right to deny the rate changes. According to Canton,
while the relevant legislation has been amended for
the water and electricity industries, the
telecommunication laws remain untouched. "The
pieces are not yet in place," said Canton.


Meanwhile, News 5's calls to BTL have been met with
the reply that an explanatory press conference has
been called for Friday morning and any inquiries must
wait until that time. The new rates are scheduled to
come into effect on December first and there is
already talk of a grassroots boycott by consumers who
are being asked not to pay their October phone bills,
ordinarily due at the end of November.

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#45502 - 11/15/01 05:25 PM Re: BTL unveils new rate structure to maintain profits
KC Offline
This is awful. Isn't BTL just shooting themselves in the foot for when their license runs out the end of next year? Seems to me the would be backpeddling, lowering rates, and making themselves look more attractive. What a disappointment for the people of Belize. A lot of businesses rely on internet for their tourist trade, not to mention the impact on the "average Jose".

Kathy
_________________________
"You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

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#45503 - 11/15/01 06:35 PM Re: BTL unveils new rate structure to maintain profits
Anonymous
my question would be, when is the service going to get any better? we have internet at our house, and we couldn't get a decent enough connection to stay on any length of time, so they wouldn't make any money from me?
we have 2 dedicated internet lines and computers at my house in the states. yes, it's excessive, but a girl has got to shop somehow!!!

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#45504 - 11/16/01 05:22 PM Re: BTL unveils new rate structure to maintain profits
Marty Offline
PUC challenges BTL rates


The Public Utilities Commission has come to the defense of Belizean
consumers, challenging Belize Telecommunications Limited to justify their
proposed new rates.
The commission has challenged BTL to prove that its local call rates are in
fact less than what it costs the company to provide this service, and that
the company is subsidizing this cost from its revenue earned on
international calls.


The Public Utilities Commission is a statutory body formed under the P.U.C.
Act of 1999 and is chaired by Dr. Gilbert Canton. Its members are Mary
Martinez, Rev. Ilona Smiling, Santiago Mendoza, Al Chanona and Harry Noble.


In calling on BTL to justify their rebalancing of local and international
call rates, the commission is invoking section 15 of the Act, which gives
it power to call for an investigation in the event of consumer complaints.
The PUC has warned BTL that it will hold a full hearing if the company
proceeds to implement the new rates on December 1, 2001 as it has given
notice it intends to do.


The utilities commission has advised BTL that it should hold off on rate
restructuring, which might be phased in at sometime in the future when
there is effective competition in the Belizean market.


Although the company has announced it is revising rates to "provide $3
million in savings to customers," unless most of your calls are
international calls, you're not likely to see a sizeable reduction in your
bill.


The proposed rates would see customers paying higher bills, especially
Belize City residents, who may have more than one line in their home or
business, or use the Internet.
Rates to the US have dropped significantly:


$2.75 per minute (standard*) to $1.75
$2.00 per minute (economy**) to $1.50
Rates to countries OUTSIDE the Western Hemisphere are also lower:
$4.50/$5.75 to $4.00 (standard)
$ 4.00/$5.00 to $3.50 (economy).


But calls to Central America and South America, Mexico, Canada and the
Caribbean have been reduced at best by 25 cents per minute.


If you live in Belize City and use your phone mainly for calls within the
City, your local bill is likely to skyrocket since calls within Belize City
have doubled. You can only get the 5 cents a minute rate during economy
hours.


If you live in the districts, your local calls have done just the opposite,
dropping from $0.15 to $0.10. Calls to another district (zone 1 or areas
within the same exchange) drop from $0.25 cents per minute to $0.20 cents.
They remain the same for economy time at $0.15 a minute. Zone 2 calls
(exchanges farther away) drop from $0.55 to $0.40 per minute.


Just having a phone is going to cost you more. New phone installation is
going up from $90 to $100 and phone rental will increase from $2 per month
to $5, for everyone except the "economy package"--those who use calling
cards to dial out.


Everyone is going to pay more for "line access and maintenance," up $8 for
residential to $10 for "economy" families and $20 for everyone else.
Businesses will see an increase from $20 to $50 per month per line.


So even before you dial the phone, or even if you are away for an entire
month and don't use it, all homeowners will now have to pay BTL a minimum
of $25 (rental plus line access and maintenance) per month plus 8% sales
tax. Businesses will owe a minimum of $55 per month, plus 8% sales tax.
Remember that's for each line.


If you have Internet service, your access fee may seem lower, reduced from
$40 to $24, but you will no longer get those "free" first 8 hours. As soon
as you log on and begin to wait for connection, you will be charged $0.10
per minute.


This translates to $6.00 per hour or $48 for the 8 hours previously covered
under your $40 fee. This of course is now in ADDITION to the $24 access
fee. Translation: Internet users will now pay $72 for the time they used to
get for $40. BTL consoles us by dropping the rates those who use more than
for 12 hours to $0.05 a minute ($3.00 an hour.)


As for cellular phones, as usual the prepaid customers will realize very
little savings, now paying a whopping $0.90 (down from an even more
whopping $0.99) for standard time, and $0.70 for economy time, an option
previously withheld. Standard cell customers enjoy reductions from $0.70
standard minutes to $0.55, and $0.40 to $0.30 for economy. Activation rates
have been dropped by $9.00 for both types of cell phones and regular cells
now pay $25 for monthly access instead of the previous $35.
All new rates become effective December 1, 2001.


*standard time is 6am to 8pm


**economy time is after 8:01pm to 5:59 am.

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#45505 - 12/02/01 06:08 AM Re: BTL unveils new rate structure to maintain profits
gc Offline
Marty,

Has P.U.C. worked out a means for others
to put in some other phone system
come the end of next year ?

For example off of the Ambergris Caye area
could not some gain a connection into
the Fiber Optic undersea cable ?

Then off of that deploy some 2G or 3G wireless connections throughtout the
countryside ?

What will it take for approval for a
outfit to put in some services come
the end of next year ?

The one way to increase profits for
all is to increase the size of the pie
that is the reality.

Growth of Industry and other items is the
key to increasing the critical mass size
of business to the point to make something
happen in Belize.

Growth needs a plan inwhichthe people of
Belize and outside industry and people can
generate economic activity like the
"online Casino idea" but in the next
level of the technology tree.

Any comments ?

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#45506 - 12/02/01 12:40 PM Re: BTL unveils new rate structure to maintain profits
Gaz Cooper Offline
About time we have an official body to check up on these Crooks finally someone might be able to tame the Bully.
_________________________






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