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Sep 29, 2000

BTL blocks voice over Internet; P.M. cautious

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Last Friday, Belize Telecommunications Limited issued a release saying that the use of software or hardware devices to transmit voice over the Internet is illegal. Thursday morning, many people who either bought the I.P. Star box or went to DialPad and Net-2-Phone’s website complained that they could no longer make any calls. As it turns out, BTL has now made good on its threats and blocked access to those websites. While BTL declined to speak to News Five, we did catch up with Prime Minister Said Musa. The man who only recently spoke passionately against the evils of monopoly telecommunications, was today more circumspect in his views.

Jose Sanchez

“Since yesterday morning BTL has been blocking access to websites that people have been using to make cheap calls to their relatives and friends, people very close to them, what is the government’s reaction, what is your reaction to this move by BTL?”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“Well B.T.L. has an exclusive license that goes up to December 2002, to control the whole business of telephone services which includes voice. And they have been advised by their attorneys and I believe the telecommunication authority also share the same view, that this new system that is being used to bypass BTL is in violation of their license and indeed is in violation of their contract that the people who hook up to the internet with BTL Who am I to disagree with that? It’s a matter clearly that will end up, presumably it will be tested in the courts. But for the mean time I believe that the government has to stay out of the matter because it’s a legal issue and it will have to be determined by the courts in the end.”

Jose Sanchez

“Don’t you believe that the people should have low rates for phone calls? The rates are too high to make international phone calls, part of the use of the Internet is voice.”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“Well clearly that has always been our position that BTL has to find a way to bring down its rates for its international calls. With the new technologies now available, clearly the pressures will be on them now to do that.”

“There is no way you can stop technology. And I think this is the message BTL will have to get. They will have to get with the program as we’ve been saying. They will have to adjust their technological programs to become more competitive in this very rapid, rapidly changing market.”

It is not clear whether BTL will triumph in the legal arena… or even the technological one. Belize’s best hackers are hard at work trying to devise ways to beat BTL’s blockage. In the meantime hundreds of people who spent up to a thousand dollars each for devices to make the low cost internet calls are trying in vain to claim a refund.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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