PUC hearing on BTL scheduled for Tuesday

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 48            December 6, 2001

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Anyone wishing to voice their displeasure regarding the Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL) December 1st rate increases will have their chance next week. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has scheduled hearings at the Radisson Fort George Hotel in the Lamanai Room for Tuesday, December 11th. In order for the general public, and BTL, to offer five-minute oral presentations or written submissions of their complaints, a morning session will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon and an afternoon session from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.

    This hearing is in compliance with section 15 of the Public Utilities Commission Act, Chapter 223 of the Substantive Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000. This section pertains to hearings on complaints received in respect to "electricity, telecommunications and radio communication, water and sewerage rates, or the rates of any other public utility- that such person shall make a complaint to the Commission which shall thereafter proceed to deal with such complaint..." in conjunction with other subsections. Although BTL has an exclusive contract, the PUC may be able to intervene on the public's behalf because of their complaints. Section 15, subsection (2) states, "Whenever the Commission, after receiving a complaint under subsection (1), and holding a hearing in respect of that complaint, finds that any existing rates of a public utility complained of are unjust or unreasonable or contrary to the law, the Commission shall determine the fair and reasonable rates (including maximum and minimum rates) to be thereafter observed by the public utility provider and shall fix and declare the same by Order to be served on the public utility provider and such rates shall constitute the legal rates of the public utility in substitution of rates (previously) submitted to the Commission under section 12."

    As reported two weeks ago in this newspaper, as of December 1st, businesses and the general population must suffer BTL rate hikes 2 1/2 times what they were paying just to have a phone line and a rental phone. Line access and maintenance fees are now $50 for businesses compared to the previous $20; and $20 for residences compared to the previous $8 charge. The previous $40 charge for eight "FREE" hours of Internet usage will now cost $24 PLUS ten cents per minute for the first twelve hours and five cents per minute after that. Essentially, Internet now costs $72 for the first eight hours of usage instead of the previous rate of $40. Simply put, besides the $24 access fee, rates will increase to $6 per hour up to 12 hours and decrease after twelve hours to $3 per hour as opposed to the previous $4.

    The PUC urges the public to submit their complaints before Tuesday by e-mail at puc@btl.net, by fax 02-71149 or in person at the hearing.

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