Notice gov't is threatening anyone who has a dish and signed up with US address.
High-speed Internet coming via cable
The Internet is a touchy subject in
Belize, with most subscribers caught
in a web of daily frustration. But
optimistic rumours abound regarding
the future...and over the last few
weeks News 5's Patrick Jones has
been checking them out.
Patrick Jones, Reporting
Ask Belizean Internet users what is the biggest problem with
the present dial-up system, they'll tell you one thing: speed. In
Belize, it seems, most people are still riding the turtle express.
When B.T.L.'s monopoly grip on the telecommunications
industry ended last December, there were already several
people in line at the Public Utilities Commission waiting for
licenses to enter the market. Their sales pitch is that they will
offer faster, more affordable Internet access, among other
Four months later, Belizeans are still waiting for the promised
liberalization of telecommunication services, which is supposed
to assist in the development of the country.
Gilbert Canton, Chairman, Public Utilities Commission
"I think what it will do, is it will allow for a lot more
opportunities for everybody, not only opportunities in
e-commerce, where they can market their products in a wider
international scenario, but also for educational purposes, for
communication. It's just going to open a lot of windows for
everybody to participate in the new global economy as we like
The new face of this section of the telecom market in Belize is
taking on a different look. And among the first to get their feet
wet in this so far unexplored territory is MyCuz company, a trio
of cousins who have teamed up with Belize's largest cable
operator to put high speed internet at the fingertips of
thousands of Belizeans.
Errol Cattouse, President, MyCuz
"It's a service that we thought Belize was really in demand for.
And the cable network will allow us to do this, and as soon as
we realized that the monopoly from B.T.L. was going to come
up, then we started to looking into the possibility of us doing
this and offering this service in Belize... Belize is more than
ready for us. Like I said the cable system that's out there right
now will allow us to offer this service. It's not a problem, it's
just a matter of us making sure the system is up and running
efficiently and working."
The service being offered by these young entrepreneurs will
utilize existing network infrastructure owned by Baymen Cable
to redistribute high-speed satellite Internet access initially to
residents on the north side of Belize City and later to the south.
Subscribers will pay an installation fee of fifty dollars and agree
to pay a monthly fee of ninety dollars for one hundred and
twenty-eight kilobits per second unlimited access to the
Internet via cable modem. And while the price is steep,
Cattouse says that compared to what is currently available, it's
a good deal.
"To us it's a best buy. Obviously with B.T.L., I hate to mention
names, but obviously with the service that is currently being
provided, currently is you have a 56k connection and you're
paying by the minute. With this you have an unlimited access,
so it's a flat fee, you know what your bill will be at the end of
the month. With the current service you have no idea, you're
guessing what your bill will be at the end of the month."
While the other countries of Central America find themselves in
a similar situation, trying to bring the latest technology to the
people of the region at an affordable cost, in Belize the Public
Utilities Commission will try to make sure things are done
according to the book. A rough estimate by industry experts is
that over a hundred and fifty satellite dishes for Internet service
are already in use around the country. According to P.U.C.
regulations, these dishes are illegal, but owners can make them
legal without any hassles.
Dr. Gilbert Canton
"But what we're trying to do is to make sure now that these
things become regularize, that there is a legal way of providing
this service. So we're asking the people who want to provide
that service in Belize to go and make sure that they have some
sort of formal contractual arrangements with the person that
were selling them the dishes. For example if it's a Starband
dish or it's a Direct Way dish or something, we're asking them
to come to the P.U.C. with proof that what have made a legal
formal legal arrangement with the providers that they can
legally put their service in Belize."
In Belize, US-COM is the agent for the Starband satellite
system. General Manager Julio Cheng is confident that over
time all the kinks in the chain will be worked out.
Julio Cheng, General Manager, US-COM
"We're a small country. We can brag about the high technology
outside the country. We are already slow, way behind
technically speaking. We have to accept the new things to
come in; we have to accept that's the truth. We have to
improve our lives because a lot of things are available outside
of the country, we're talking about global village. We are part
of the village, we have to accept those facts."
Being a part of the global village, however, is coming at a high
cost compared to other Internet providers in the region.
Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission Gilbert Canton says
there is little they can do as a hefty piece of the revenue pie
derived from Internet and other telecommunications services
goes directly to Government.
Dr. Gilbert Canton
"The provision of telecommunications service falls under the
classification in the business tax as telecommunication
services. That attracts a nineteen percent business tax charge
on it. So any provider that gets a license to provide
telecommunications service, would under the present structure,
have to pay to government a nineteen percent business tax
along with the regular, I think the sales tax, which I think
government is saying that they are going to remove soon, for
"But despite the tax burden and stiff competition from larger
better financed providers, a level playing field the number one
priority for the new mavericks. They are intent it seems to just
get their feet in the door. Both MyCuz and US-COM agreed that
they have to carve a niche in the market for their brand of
"Obviously B.T.L. has the pocket to give us a good run for our
money. And we are not looking at B.T.L. as our major
competitor. There are other people involved in this that are
offering the service. So they are not our major competitor,
they are our largest competitor, but there are other major
competitors out there."
"Everybody has different needs. For example if you want to
use your Internet in your car, you can't use D.S.L. line or cable
modem, you have to get it wireless. So basically in different
field it's not much competition, just depends on what
And what customers want is, not free, but affordable, reliable
Internet. Cattouse says he and his partners have spent over a
hundred thousand dollars to bring cable Internet to Belize. And
they say they are prepared to dig even deeper into their
pockets to make this dream a reality.
"As more and more people join the push to open up the
telecom market in Belize, and with a promise from Government
to remove the sales tax from home phone bills, the birthing
pains of the new telecommunications revolution are expected
to quickly pass. Patrick Jones, for News 5."
Subscribers on the Baymen Cable system will get a
modem free of cost, including installation. Cattouse says
they are in the final stages of testing and should start
home installations at the end of the month. Belize City's
other cable service, C.B.C. will also be offering its own
high-speed Internet service with northside rollout set to
begin in a few months. For the record, News 5 requested
interviews from both B.T.L. and INTELCO about their
high-speed Internet service. We are still awaiting their