Did you know that even when you are sending an email to your neighbor right across the street - it has to first be routed through Miami? It's nothing sinister, that's just how the bandwidth traffic is routed. But now, a new internet exchange point will be set up in Belize - and all local internet traffic will be routed locally - at no cost to internet service providers like BTL and SMART. It's going through a hub at the UB Belize City Campus in West Landivar - and, in a minor modern miracle, all the major internet service providers have signed unto the initiative.
It was spearheaded by a regional group called Packet Clearing House. Bevel Wooding explained that while it may sound technical, the local exchange point it will make a simple difference in your e-life:...
Bevel Wooding, Packet Clearing House
"Now that access to sites anywhere in the world is normally done through an exchange point. Up to this day, those exchange points that you connect to that, service providers have to connect to, have been outside of Belize. What the parties are agreeing to do today is to bring, to establish, to develop an internet exchange point within Belize. So that the first point of internet traffic exchange is going to happen locally before it happens internationally. You now have a shorter distance for that traffic to go through and with most things, shorter distance means lower cost. Well shorter distance also means more efficient transfer of data between customers on one network in Belize and customers on another network in Belize. What use to happen before, and this is the grave travesty that is being corrected here, is if somebody on a service provider 'A' wanted to send email, a letter, a note to somebody on service provider 'B' in Belize, that traffic would have to go all the way up to Miami or New York or California or London before it comes back to Belize. It is inefficient, it is expensive, and it leads to the unnecessary interrogation of that data by actors, foreign government or others. That is quite unnecessary. By establishing a local exchange point, the providers have agreed today to say any traffic that is destined for a local user on a local network will no longer leave Belize, it will simply go through the local internet exchange point. That means the traffic between local customers is going to move faster. Does this mean you're going to get cheaper internet service? No, it means you're going to get more cost effective internet service. ISP's can provide more local bandwidth at lower cost to local consumers. Whether that translates into special packages now becomes a question of what the ISP's choose to do on the business side. But the point is this, for the first time in the industry in Belize, ISP's will be competing on the basis of quality of service, not on the basis of who have access to the most bandwidth. And this counts for anybody who is only using local traffic of across this new free internet service provider point and that's what this is all about. That's why there's so much excitement, that's why this is such a historic occasion. You have competitors agreeing to do something unanimously for the greater good. They benefit commercially, but consumers and businesses benefit in a very real and very tangible way. It's significant that a small act in an obscure room to deal with a technology that most people don't care about is intended to trigger a cascade of benefits that will touch consumers."
"So, is there a timeline?"
Bevel Wooding, Packet Clearing House
"There is a timeline, the timeline is as soon as possible. The actual target date for this was January 2015. So now that we have the agreement out of the way, the technical aspect of it takes only a few weeks. so Packet Clearing House will be donating the equipment that should get in here within a fourth night and then workshops will happen to tell the local operators connect to the exchange. The room has to be finalized. I believe that is also scheduled to take no more than two to four weeks. So within the next two months I would say, this should be up and running."
As we told you, the exchange point - which is really just a switch and some servers will be housed at a neutral location, the University of Belize in West Landivar. Neutral so that no company is seen to have an advantage. But it's a big boon for the national university which can now embark on new programs. President Alan Slusher explained:..
Alan Slusher, President - UB
"UB is looking forward to greatly expanding its capacity to deliver training across the length and breadth of the country and directly into the homes and workplaces of our work people. Thus greatly reducing the costs of education while expanding its availability. We are looking for a great leap forward as a result of this corporation."
The local exchange point will also speed up those voice over internet calls made in Belize. You know the ones on Viber or Skype that always have a lag? Well that's because your voice is first going to Miami before it goes back to your Belizean friend who may be right across the street. The local exchange was eliminate that Miami connection as well, and should make those calls far more attractive.
Quality Internet Services; Stakeholders Sign M.O.U. for local Internet Exchange Point
For the past five years, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union together with Pocket Clearing House has been promoting the establishment of Internet Exchange Points throughout the Caribbean. Exchange Points are essentially a facility with the primary purpose to connect internet service providers, better known as ISPs, so that they can exchange local internet traffic between themselves at no cost. In 2013, the Public Utilities Commission along with stakeholders in the telecommunications industry commenced to dialogue in an effort to develop an internet exchange point in Belize. As it currently stands, the access to anywhere in the world is done through an exchange point. It is a physical infrastructure through which an email, a message or a video-chat exchange takes place and those exchange points have been outside of Belize. Today, however, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the ISPs and other stakeholders to develop and establish an internet exchange point within Belize. Speaking on behalf of the ISPs was Michael King of NetKing Solutions Limited.
Michael King, President, NetKing Solutions Limited
“Today marks and celebrates a significant and historic in the development of the internet and more broadly for consumers and businesses in Belize. The platform and stage for a new era of innovation, entrepreneurship, collaboration is being set with today’s unprecedented demonstration of cooperation with us, the local Internet Service Providers. This memorandum of understanding to establish Belize’s first ever internet exchange point, is a testament to the commitment of the Belizean ISPs to continually seek ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of internet services for Belizean citizens and businesses. Our soon to be launched Belize Internet Exchange Point, will allow local ISPs to exchange local internet traffic locally. It will also allow for situations for other critical internet infrastructures within Belize; such as domain named root services and content delivery caches from major internet companies like Google, NetFlix and Yahoo.”
Bevil Wooding, Pocket Clearing House
“What makes this important is the exchange point allows multiple service providers to share one common facility which creates two sets of opportunities—one is technical in that you now have a shorter distance for that traffic to go to and as with most things, shorter distance means lower costs. But shorter distance also means more efficient transfer of data between customers on one network in Belize and customers on another network in Belize. What use to happen before and this is the grave travesty that is being corrected here. If somebody on a service provider A wanted to send an email, a letter a note to somebody on service provider B in Belize; that traffic would need to go to Miami or New York or California or London before it comes back to Belize. It is inefficient, it is expensive and it leads to the unnecessary interrogation of that data by actors, foreign government or others that is quite unnecessary. By establishing a local exchange point, the providers have agreed today to say any traffic that is destined for a local user on a local network will no longer leave Belize; it will simply go through the local internet exchange point. That means that the traffic between local customers is going to move faster. That means that the cost of delivery because they are agreeing to do this at no cost between their networks is going to reduce to what is called a cost neutral basis.”
…What Will It Mean for Internet Users?
The installation of the local infrastructure will see a better increase in the services provided to consumers—gaming operations, voice over internet protocols, substantial increases in local bandwidth and local internet performances. And since we are in the era of technology, even local universities and education facilities will be able to benefit with the online services it offers to students. While the facility will be hosted at the University of Belize, Faculty of Business Science Campus in Belize City, President Alan Slusher says that it will assist the institution in reducing the costs of education and at the same time, expanding its availability.
Alan Slusher, President, University of Belize
“We at the University of Belize take really great pleasure today in being part of this major step in our country’s development. The domestication of an important part of our internal electronic communications and information management processes. As has been explained, this will have major implications for the expansion of a whole set of activities in this area, contributing to jobs, incomes, cost reduction and most important the development of the capacity of our people. Apart from our small contribution; that is UB’s small contribution at this time in physically hosting the equipment installation, UB is extremely excited about opportunities that are now going to be available for us to expand in our capacity development role. And in this, we are now looking forward to the guidance that will come from what is for us a brand new group of stakeholders, the information service providers. We are very happy too that the ISPs have recognized the symbiosis and synergy that will flow from close coordination between their operations and needs and our needs and capacities at UB and we have agreed to work together for mutual benefits in the future. As a result of this cooperation, UB is looking forward to greatly expanding its capacity to deliver training across the length and breadth of the country and directly into the homes and workplaces of our people thus greatly reducing the costs of education while expanding its availability.”
While the internet service providers will be able to give almost unlimited local bandwidth at rock-bottom prices to customers, it is up to them to decide whether they will reduce the cost for internet.