E-mail woes explained

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 6            February 20, 2003

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Several more complaints were raised with the country's telecommunications monopoly this week. This time it was an inability to establish Electronic mail (E-mail) connections with the Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL) server. Speaking with technicians it was learned this was another "intermittent" problem and the result of a need to rid the server of several thousand "garbage e-mails" which are distributed through mass mailings each day. Further explained was that even with a security system in place to block this, countless numbers of this junk mail are downloaded every day. The "clean up" and subsequent e-mail service interruptions were expected to be finished as of Tuesday.

    As a follow-up to last week's BTL article "Hang up and call again," regarding the public's difficulties receiving phone calls, The San Pedro Sun contacted the Public Utilities Commission. Director of Consumer and Public Affairs Donnalyn Myvette stated she had received another similar complaint. On Tuesday, February 18, 2003, Ms. Myvette explained she had contacted BTL and was coordinating with their personnel to schedule a meeting to pursue this matter. She stated that she would update the public on the outcome as soon as possible.

    Aware that the Government of Belize uses an alternative telecommunications provider (you can guess why) The San Pedro Sun also contacted the Ministry of Communications to make certain they were informed of the situation. Speaking with Dr. Victor Gonzalez of Public Affairs, he assured that his ministry would follow up with the PUC regarding the matter and that the public should receive an answer within a week or so.

    On Tuesday, this reporter also attempted to contact the spokesperson for Belize Telecommunications Limited for an update on the "switch" problem.  My first attempt at an update ended in a dead line - no connection whatsoever. My second attempt led to a busy extension at which time I was given the option to dial another extension, which I did. This attempt resulted in the call continuously ringing to no end. I finally hung up. The response to my third and fifth attempt was "We're sorry - all circuits are busy at this time. Please hang up and try again." (The fourth attempt, by the way, was another dead line - no connection.) On the sixth attempt, I made contact and discovered that no news had been provided regarding the problematic switch. Asked if BTL could just buy a new switch and solve the "intermittent" problem once and for all, the BTL spokesperson stated he would send another communication to the technicians and get back to me.

    So, as I am so often advised to do by BTL, I will "try again later."

    Anyone wishing to air their complaints with the Public Utilities Commission may call 227-1176, fax 227-1149 or E-mail puc@btl.net - that is, if you can get a connection.

Letter to the Editor

To the editors,

    I very much appreciated your coverage of the BTL situation we are experiencing in San Pedro. We at the Mayan Princess have been complaining locally to BTL as well as to the main offices in Belize City since last September.

    There are a couple of additional points that should be noted about the problem. First, that it does not affect just inter-island calls. In September and October of last year, I was in the United States at tourism trade shows and could not get through to my home or the hotel. Many times the phone rang on my end, but no one ever answered. In addition, we have guests writing e-mail wanting to know why we are not at our front desk. They have dialed over and over, the phone rings and we never pick up. But, how can we answer a phone that doesn't ring? My husband has been on the mainland needing to speak with me urgently. I am at home awaiting his call and it never comes. Finally, I get a call from the hotel that he got through to them to say he has dialed over and over and the phone rings, but I didn't pick up. Again, how can I answer a phone that doesn't ring?

    I love the initial advice we were given from the local office. They said, "Oh yeah, everyone is having that problem. Just tell them to hang up and call again." My question is: If I don't know there has been a call, how can I tell the person to hang up and call again?

    There is also the issue of dialing a number and the voice mail coming on immediately. The person is right there and never hears a phone ring. It stems from the same switch problem but, in this case, we are paying twice to get someone to answer once.

    Yesterday, before receiving the paper, I had lost my patience (partially because I was into my second day of no e-mail server on top of unreliable phone service) and contacted BTL myself. I was referred to a Ms. Rowena Edwards who informed me of the faulty switch. She says BTL is waiting for the company who makes the switches to deal with our problem. I asked her how long did the problem have to go on for before BTL decides to buy new switches. She had no answer, but I know without a doubt that if the faulty switch were affecting their billing system, it would have been fixed six months ago. They would have bought new switches and dealt with the company at fault later. As it is, we are paying BTL to undermine our business.

    I would like BTL to understand that putting blame off on the company that makes the switches and expecting us to wait with no end in sight is unacceptable. I know that if guests came to our hotel and none of the A/Cs were working and I told them we were sold faulty air conditioners by LG and were waiting for them to fix the problem, they would tell me I was crazy, demand a refund and leave. It would be the death of our business. It seems that BTL should be held to at least the same standard we small businesses have to maintain.

    Again, I very much appreciate The San Pedro Sun bringing the issue to the front page. I hope others will write in (don't call because we won't hear the ring) and also send their complaints on to the Public Utilities Commission as I am doing.

Impatiently yours,

Sheila Nale, Manager

Mayan Princess Hotel

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