Thursday, August 6, 2009


* Belize is that country on the upper right hand side of the map.
* CLARO telecommunications serving Guatemala ( and Belize? )

WHEN WILL BELIZE CABINET INVITE CLARO, or TIGO of Guatemala Telecommunications to run internet and telephone service into Belize as far as Belmopan in telecommunications competition?

One of the more puzzling happenings, or lack of happenings with the UDP Cabinet is their telecommunications for development policy, or more likely LACK THEREOF. Tuesday this week and Monday, the television on one channel was running an ad for the Public Service Commission, condemning the practice of border people using Guatemalan cell phones and internet and television. I wasn’t sure of what the point in the advertisement was? Isn’t the PUC supposed to be encouraging DEVELOPMENT of BELIZE?
It has been obvious for umpteen years ( more than 20 years ) that BTL the inheritor of the old British Honduras system is not interested in serving or developing telecommunications in Belize for economic growth. Despite 15 years and more of tax write offs in the millions of dollars in profits, there has been no progress in developing the telecommunications industry in Belize. The BTL staff are quite proud of the fact that BTL is a FOR PROFIT company. Profit is obviously keeping capital investment low, using the cheapest technology, and catering only to population density concentrations, with the most rewarding pay per minute systems of cell phones. ( eating the icing on the cake , while choking off competition ) The records each year show that BTL in particular and then there is SMART allegedly a competitor, or subsidiary, or something, are taking out $30 to $60 million a year in profits in telecommunications and that their whole thing is profit and the quickest way to the bottom line and to hell with what Belize needs. Nobody blames them for that.
What is the puzzle is the PUC? Why give a television ad slanted at a dozen or so people using Guatemalan service from over the border, where the signal is strong enough? It seems out of character for a government institution supposedly for developing Belize to be concerned about this. Are not the PUC for economic development, through the best way and competition? On the other hand, there is often no logic in politics, except who gets rich as in under the table bribes. What is going on here doesn’t look right, nor does it smell right.
So I investigated a bit to see what the public on the streets had to say in the TWIN TOWNS. It seems you can get TIGO a telecommunications company from Salvador operating in Guatemala, to give you internet service for $18 usa per month over on the border by Melchor. The speed is limited at 500 k. Which I believe is faster than the regular local BTL service, if you can get it. We can’t get BTL here in Santa Elena Town and we are 2 miles from the BTL office and about ¾ of a mile from their antenna tower. Not for cell phone, nor for internet service. I did hear that you cannot get the BTL signal very well, over in San Jose Succotz,, so the border town of Benque Viejo much further away, must get even worse telecommunications service from BTL and probably nothing at all from SMART? No wonder they are using Guatemalan telecommunications, as the excellent service in Guatemala is only 2 miles away from them. We have been complaining about this for 16 years that I know of, to deaf ears here in Belize, both to our different governments and BTL. A lot of people are talking about moving to Benque with their businesses and homes to get the advantage of superior technological service.
CLARO telecommunications goes one better. I’m not sure if this is a Guatemalan company in Guatemala, but they have something called TURBO NET, a very high speed rated at 2.2 gigabytes I’ve been told. Which means a web page will change on you, faster than your eyes can blink. This costs $50 usa a month. I’m told you can get Guatemalan telecommunications telephone service to the edge of the hill in San Ignacio Town, up to the area of the TEXACO station there on the top of the hill. Oh to have a repeater, what a joy that would be!
As I understand it, you have to have a relative in Guatemala and it can be anywhere. In Flores, Coban, anyplace served by telecommunications and buy a modem in the relatives name and you just plug it into your computer at the USB port. Not sure how the cell phone business works, but calling the USA is around 3 cents USA a minute, or something like that? I think they have phone cards too, but with much better service than here in Belize, which is very bad service indeed.
What seems to have happened from the PUC advertisement, is that now we have a whole lot of people from the TWIN TOWNS and down to BELMOPAN, on the southern end of the INDUSTRIAL HEARTLAND OF BELIZE, trying to figure out how to get GUATEMALAN internet and telephone service in Belize. The idea had only been a rumor before. The PUC tv ad, got everybody curious and people are madder than hell, we are still being short changed and taken advantage of in Belize. We are not mad so much at BTL, a for profit company working on the least spent, to gain a guaranteed $60 million a year in profits as their mission goal, to take out of the country, each year; but angrier than KILLER BEES at our Belize UDP Government for not doing something about building and developing our country. Obviously it should be CABINET POLICY to invite both CLARO and TIGO in Guatemala to extend their service from the border town of Melchor down to BELMOPAN, in competition with everybody already in Belize. A short run of 25 miles, but covering half the population of the nation. That may be the logical thing to do, asking the UDP government to put the nation first, but we have a lawyer for Prime Minister and his convoluted political lawyer brain doesn’t work logically. So no one knows why he does the things he does, that defy common sense.
Then what the heck, this Cabinet cannot even get bus service to the frontier in the WEST yet, even in this short SUMMER TOURIST HIGH SEASON, after being pre- warned the past two months? Nor designate a CUSTOMS FREE ZONE for business development manufacturing., between the border and Benque town, the 2 ½ mile stretch.
This government do a lot of court cases and talk a heck of a lot about amendments to the Constitution and legal bills beloved of the law fraternity, but not much apparently logical about building , or developing Belize. There seems a shortage of ideas and when they are given ideas, the ACTION part is sadly lacking, as the myopic vision of legalities seems to cloud ALL ISSUES to do with development of Belize. If 10% of the effort spent on legal stuff, was spent on infra-structure development issues, the nation would be much further ahead. I think the Education Minister, Patrick Faber should be given the transportation and telecommunications portfolios and let us see what HE can do for the country? His work in education is forward looking development wise. Lets see if he can get CLARO and TIGO to come into Belize as far as Belmopan. BTL and SMART can’t do it, then bring in some bigger players for telecommunications and stir up the competition level, to serve the nation better. Just my two cents in creating a development debate. What the PUC is doing on TV, is counter productive to what the CABINET should be doing. How much were they bribed to do that one can only wonder?

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