Thursday, January 18, 19101
With four thousand BTL customers on San Pedro, it's hard to believe that
only twenty-one showed up at the Lion's Den last evening to hear of the
four point five million dollar underground telecommunication network
planned for the town. Reporter Ann-Marie Williams and Cameraman Brent
Toombs flew to San Pedro for the event.
(Angry residents venting)
"We do not feel that BTL has been very helpful."
"I also have a number 2357, it hasn't been work since the hurricane. I
live in San Pablo."
"We should not have a monopoly in Belize because we need good
"I have been getting calls from Ethiopia. I wish I had a family there
that I could call them. That's ridiculous."
"Whether it's customer service, corporate, Internet, whatever, we're
being made promises that are not being kept."
"I know you guys are trying to do your best, but hell you guys could
Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting
And BTL pledged to do better. However, judging from the twenty-one
participants at their town meeting, which was not well publicized, San
Pedranos have had their fill of empty promises.
"I think if the people in town knew about this meeting you would have
had a riot squad here. I think that what we had to put is
BTL officers were stormed with a barrage of complaints ranging from poor
service to not service at all.
"One property manager has twenty-five places she rents, no phones and
people are canceling reservations because there's no phone service. What
this island needs very desperately is a great tourist season to recover
from the storm. When people come down from the States, they need to be
contacted to the phones and Internet, and they cancel, it hurts the
economy of the island desperately."
And somehow BTL was not desperate to respond.
For Debbie Scott it's a challenge for her to try to meet an emergency.
"We got a call from BTL a few weeks ago because they knew the service
was not being offered. They said we'd come give you another fixed
cellular. We've been pushing for the wireless, we haven't got it. Each
of these resorts and restaurants have staff, we have guests. At night if
there's some kind of emergency the staff has no access to a
BTL's sales manager, Dionne Chamberlain, had this to say.
Dionne Chamberlain, Sales Manager, BTL
"Our customers were able to be reached, they had mobile cellular, some
of them had microwave phones. We did a campaign and we issued out fixed
cellular to our people. In fact for Miss Scott's phone, the installation
is underway from yesterday and should be completed sometime soon."
"My question is we're being charged by your clock for Internet time and
there's no data transpiring. How are we going to address... sir, do I
have your attention? How do we address this when we're online and
there's no data transfer occurring, yet the clock is still ticking. How
are we going to address that for anybody who has any service at all?
It's been happening before Keith and before Mitch. It's been happening
all the while, yet now it's even more critical because a lot more of
these business are now very Internet intensive."
Dean Molina, Customer Service Manager
"We would like to test your line specifically."
"I don't have one. (Crowd laughs)
"When you do get one."
For this woman who manages Capricorn, it's no laughing matter, she's
"For example, with the credit cards, we can't use the swipe. We have
fifty people to dinner every night and we've been caught with large
amounts recently because we can't check credit cards. Maybe we need a
wireless, maybe that's the idea."
"Is there any reason why you can't give discounted rates to people who
have to purchase cellular for some means of communication? Why do they
have to pay ninety-nine cents a phone call or eighty-five cents, or
fifty cents for cellular service when it's not their fault that they
don't have phone service?"
Ernesto Torres, Chief Operating Officer
"All I can say is that that suggestion you're making, we would need to
take it back because I'm not too sure."
"That's an excellent question... It is a very valid point."
"It is a valid point."
They all had valid points the problem was they felt there were no valid
BTL also took some flak for the conditions of the streets. Since they
decided for the first time to lay their cables underground.
Alphonsus Tillett, Resident
"I know you guys are trying to do something for the island and we're
very happy about that. But guys, take your time. Finish a part then you
can go ahead and destroy another; not destroy the whole island, we're at
our tourist peak right now."
External plant engineer, Mark Usher says the inconveniences and digging
of several holes simultaneously is all because BTL is trying to restore
the area quickly.
Mark Usher, External Plant Engineer
"To make the delivery date quicker for the whole network, then we have
to do simultaneous digging. I have three contractors out there dealing
with three areas simultaneously, so you can imagine the headache it is
for me. But it had to be done that way to facilitate the time."
Chief operating officer, Ernesto Torres, says their priority at this
time is to restore service to the tourism-driven island.
Ernesto Torres, Chief Operating Officer
"There are areas for example like San Pedrito, San Pablo and Escalante,
which because of the devastation, has been left with little or no
service. So we are trying to quickly get those plants up and running,
use the existing cables that were there before Keith to connect these
networks or as many lines as we can on those networks until we roll out
the proper plan. But I want to emphasize that the quality of service
these customers will get will be the same as those connected
According to Torres, these underground cables will prove effective in
the long run.
"If there is a storm, if there's any damage, then we are anticipating
that the damage will be very limited and we can bring the business
customers, those customers that are underground portion of the plant
very quickly. Those that are overhead, we will also be able to restore.
In other words, the smaller the quantum of the damage, the easier it is
"The two hour two meeting saw a number of San Pedranos venting their
frustrations and when the smoke cleared, BTL made a lot of promises. How
and when they will be fulfilled is anybody's guess.
Caye Caulker residents will have their town meeting seven o'clock
tonight at the Central Park.