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Mar 29, 1999

B.T.L. lowers rates

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Today B.T.L. announced the specifics of a rate reduction which will take effect April 1st. The plan includes lower national and international rates, longer economy periods and reduced rates for cellular phone installation and calls. On the national front, callers will see the biggest drop in charges for their calls to areas furthest away, in what B.T.L. calls zone three. Callers who used to pay 85 cents a minute to Punta Gorda or Corozal to Belize City, or vice versa, will now pay 55 cents between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. This is the same rate as Zone 2, or locations in a more intermediate location such as Orange Walk or Dangriga. However, the local rate has not changed remaining at five cents a minute in Belize City and a flat rate of 15 cents per call in district towns. Rates will also remain the same for calls within Zone one, say Belize City to Ladyville. These remain at 25 cents per minute during the day and 15 cents after 8 p.m. News Five asked B.T.L. CEO Ediberto Tesecum how B.T.L. arrived at this revised structure.

Ediberto Tesecum, C.E.O., B.T.L.

“In doing an analysis itself we looked at all the 3 zones; we also looked at the many questions that came from our customers. And based on that we were able to arrive at a package that more or less covers these areas. While you may not see something between here and Ladyville, we found out that there are a lot of us that end up in the zone three in particular and therefore we concentrated our efforts in trying to give the greatest benefits there. Simply because it doesn’t matter where we are whether we are in Ladyville or Benque Viejo or Corozal, Orange Walk or Independence, we will have calls that go the furthest distance and for those there is a reduction of 35 percent. So we tried to balance the rates where we felt they were most needed.”

Internationally, rates to Asia and Africa have dropped a significant 28 percent from 8 dollars on weekdays to 5.75. Calls to Mexico and Central America have been lowered by 50 cents during the week, at night and on weekends. But if like so many people you make the bulk of your international calls to the U.S.A. you won’t realize such significant savings. For these countries as well as Canada, the Caribbean and South America, you will be given a little break, from 3.12 to 2.75 during the week. There is a bright spot, however, with a flat rate of 2 dollars a minute all weekend from 10 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday. We asked B.T.L. why the reduction to the U.S. and other Zone one countries isn’t greater, given the fact that international companies like Sprint are offering such calls for as little as ten and five cents U.S. a minute. Chairman Lisa Shoman says B.T.L. is not in a position to subsidize its international calls like these larger companies, but that they will continue to make cuts where they can, when they can.

Lisa Shoman, Chairman, B.T.L.

“Remember when you’re talking about companies like Sprint and so on that U.S. international telephone rates are subsidized on local rates which are extremely high. Belize does not do that; we do not subsidize our international telephone rates on local rates. In fact quite the opposite: there are in certain areas in which in local telephone calls B.T.L. does not only earn money, it does not make money. So that that is something consumers need to know – that in fact when it comes to local telephone calls B.T.L. does not make money. And while that is not to say that you do not then subsidize your international rates on that, it is perhaps one of the reasons why it is extremely difficult to come up with ingenious and cost saving measures in order to give the best package available to consumers. And we will continue to search tirelessly for those measures.”

Internet users will be disappointed to find there was nothing in the latest rate package for them, B.T.L. says this is because they made these reductions earlier this year. Cellular phone users will have a drop in their rates from 1.12 to 85 cents a minute during the day. As an incentive to get more people to sign up for cellular phones, B.T.L. has slashed its fees for installation by fifty percent from 110 dollars to 49. Other charges for regular phones, such as installations, line access and maintenance remain the same although B.T.L. says their actual costs for these services are higher. And speaking of service, yes, you will have to pay the 8 percent sales tax on your phone bill beginning the same day as the rate reductions, April 1st. According to Chairman Shoman, the reductions announced today were not prompted by the Sales Tax legislation but are part of an ongoing review of B.T.L. rate structures.

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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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