REPORT #623 March 2003

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

For those business's coming to Belize, or retirees, and other persons, who find the more common internet speeds to slow. Here is a status report on internet service in Belize.

Until last year, a monopoly had the internet and the monopoly was maintained by crooked politicians who had stock in the monopoly company, or received political party campaign contributions, or other benefits. Among them ex-Prime Minister Esquivel. There was a legal question about BTL the monopoly hijacking this public service years ago, but no government of either party ever took the matter to court, due to corruption. (Thats my opinion by the way! ) The telephone monopoly ended in December 2002 and there is still manipulation of the telecommunications system through licensing and permiting laws, to get political benefits from what is the most lucrative profit earner in the country. Lord Ashcroft major stockholder of BTL is rumored to have taken out a half billion in US dollars in profits, or dividends during the 15 years of the monopoly and the national economic development was retarded accordingly. The aftermath of this monopoly is still felt today.

That said; most of the public, or the middle and upper class business people are now sprouting antennas for satellite connections as fast as they can borrow the money. But even so, satellite service speeds while high on the downlink, are way too slow on the up-link for most business's to run a locally based web hosting server from within Belize, or do software programming, or any other business that needs the more competitive speeds. Most Belize business's locate their web sites on USA servers, to serve their international customer base. This is more common in the tourist industry, but also a major factor in the merchandising import/export business. This offshore server hosting raises legal problems about jurisdiction, particularly in grey areas of copyright, licensing and the myriad, state, federal and county laws within the Federation of the 50 USA states. At the moment, internet in Belize, is more better at serving just very minimal basic e-mail needs, or doing some online research, that does not require return uplink digital data streams. There is a fiber optic NAP line undersea cable from Miami to Belize City, but nobody seems to be using it? Why is not clear?

The most common e-mail and internet service is coming from the old BTL monopoly through the phone lines. They do not provide DSL, or a splitting of analogue and digital data for faster local speeds. The fastest speeds I have seen are satellite speeds through the phone line on the two major offshore tourist Cayes, due presumably to a direct radio link to the BTL satellite mainland router. Elsewhere in the country of Belize, the internet service even for basic e-mail is atrociously slow and often non-operative. If often is not even available. Disconnects are common and you can spend a whole day from many locations trying to just connect and staying connected is a nightmare. All at $6 per hour. The money charging meter never stops, no matter that you do not receive the service. Monthly bills of thousands of dollars are not unknown and threatened loss of your phone line connection if you do not pay. With only one phone provider you are a victim, to be victimized. There are several imaginative solutions being attempted on the northern border by linking to the Mexican internet system by radio. But these are reporting slow speeds also, though the 24 hour flat rate service is an improvement, but bandwidth is definitely not adequate for much in the way of business.

Following are some of the comments of users experienced in trying to get common USA speeds to build internet based business operations. So far, nobody that requires anything more than e-mail service can get enough speed, or bandwidth at a low flat monthly rate that is competitive.

Satellite is becoming the dominant Internet access point in Belize for businesses and upper-income families. You can see the dishes just sprouting all over the landscape. You can certainly bring your setup to Belize but most power users run it with a 1.8 metre dish (for the strongest possible signal and to resist rain fade).

We use Starband because it's faster than Direcway and no FAPing. Cost is about US$70. a month. The only thing I hate is that I have to keep a computer running all the time as the gateway for my network. We run 4 PCs through a Linksys Router and also feed it into a Linksys wireless router to use the laptop in the hammock etc.

Echostar is beta testing the new 480E Satellite Modem that will do away with a gateway computer, i.e. the software will be in the modem.

The satellite really shines at sucking down software files - usually about 400 - 500 KPS, but uploads are a tad slow generally 20 to 40KPS - not important unless you are doing lots of uploads via FTP etc. The 480E will be faster reputedly 60 to 120 up and downloads greater than 1MBPS but more expensive.

Las Vegas, NV, CES Booth January 9, 2003 & StarBand, America's first consumer high-speed, two-way satellite Internet provider, today announced the launch of the StarBand 480 Pro, a professional-strength, network-ready, business-grade satellite modem delivering faster speeds, instant networking capability and enhanced software embedded on the modem allowing greater connectivity and software options.

The StarBand 480 Pro provides high performance service with peak download speeds of more than one megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds two to three times faster than current StarBand service.

Today we added another dimension to the depth and breadth of the StarBand product line, said StarBand Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Zur Feldman. The StarBand 480 Pro is proof that StarBand listens to our customers and delivers on their needs. It showcases our commitment to be the pioneer in delivering a range of higher-speed satellite Internet solutions to the marketplace.

The StarBand 480 Pro satellite modem, developed for StarBand by Gilat Satellite Networks, integrates a four-port Ethernet router enabling instant networking of multiple personal computers to provide maximum flexibility for networked environments. With the product software and intelligence now embedded on the satellite modem, business customers enjoy networked high-speed access over such local area network (LAN) solutions as Windows, UNIX, Linux, Macintosh and other Ethernet platforms.

We're using a Hughes Satellite with our subscription coming from Direcway up here in Canada. We get anywhere from 120 kbps+ downloading and anywhere between 20-70kbps upstream. Some days it really varies it can be as slow as dial up or as fast as a T1. The initial cost for the satellite was 1200 CDN plus a 500 installation fee with our monthly subscription fee being 139 CDN. We had no other options out here for internet and dial up wouldn't work because the phone lines are just that bad. I think we've gotten FAP'd a few times and the cap was lifted after about 8 hours. We do a lot of heavy downloading and uploading running our business from home and aside from the latency it hasn't been that bad. We were under the impression that we could just bring a satellite with us to Belize and set it up. Has anyone else done that?

There is no current way that I am aware of, to get the normal USA DSL digital speeds of 1.5 million bps, or the higher fiber optic 2 million bps speeds and bandwidth from Belize at this time. This makes internet banking, or web hosting your business jurisdiction site within Belize still impossible. A satellite seems to be currently the best bet, which means you can research international web sites on-line, but you cannot host your website within Belize to provide your Belize business service. You can do e-mail which is a slow speed requirement and does not require much in the way of bandwidth. You must use a server for web hosting in a foreign country to get speed and bandwidth, most commonly in the USA. This opens you to different legal problems in court cases in other countries depending on the type of your business. Belize still has a long way to go, to join the internet business economic revolution. In more crude language, internet service in Belize SUCKS!

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