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Dec 17, 2004

BTL rebounds quickly from third fibre break

Story Picture One time is bad luck, twice a remarkable coincidence, but to have the ARCOS international fibre optic ring rupture three times in five weeks stretches our gullibility–not to mention our patience–well past the breaking point. That’s right, sometime this morning BTL’s international connections went dead. This time the undersea cable was cut somewhere between the Bahamas and Florida. While BTL’s backup satellite circuits quickly restored phone service, internet and data traffic was brought to a halt. News 5′s Stewart Krohn spoke to BTL executive Karen Bevans at four fifteen this afternoon.

Karen Bevans, Head of Marketing and Public Relations
?Well as you are aware, November twelfth, thereabout, we were informed of the Cancun cut and automatically it was transparent to customers because the traffic was automatically re-routed via Central America. As you are aware, the ARCOS fibre optic cable is redundant; it?s a ring. So if something happens north, then automatically the traffic flows south and that is what happened with the Cancun cut. On November twenty-sixth, we were then advised of the Columbia cut and that affected customers then because both areas were affected. The service was automatically interrupted. At that time then, you were aware that we flew someone up to Miami; we tried to negotiate with AT&T and other carriers to get service via our satellite to get our back up link. That was established, in fact, within twenty-four hours we had voice circuits back on the satellite. Now as soon as everything is restored, we got information mid-morning that we had another cut on the ARCOS fibre optic cable via the Nassau, Miami route. Unfortunately, the Cancun route was not yet repaired. Fortunately, we had established the satellite routes and all our voice traffic was automatically re-routed to the satellite. So, again there were no interruptions on the voice calls because the satellite route automatically came into effect.?

?The concern we have now or the interruption we have in service is on our internet. The last time we had a backup link, we used the ARCOS between Belize and Mexico and from there we were connected to AVANTEL that took us to Miami via another cable that they have. Luckily for us BTL have another fibre going out of Belize via Mexico. We have our own fibre up to the border in Chetumal and we are connected with Telmex from the border there. So when this situation occurred two weeks ago we had already begun discussions with Telmex to have an independent route as another backup. So we have two via ARCOS because if something happens on the north of ARCOS then it flows south and we went for another one and said if something happened on the south of ARCOS then we have something independent of ARCOS. Fortunately, we were already advanced in negotiations with Telmex and we were just about restoring a link via Telmex when now today we got this information that there is an unfortunate situation on the ARCOS.?

Stewart Krohn
?So when and how will internet service be restored??

Karen Bevans
?We are hoping that sometime today, later this afternoon. We are far advanced with the connection Telmex so I cannot give specific timings at this point because with engineering you don?t know what might happen. But the engineers are working on it and we expect that some time this afternoon we should have internet service back. I believe before the news I could give you a call and update you as to the status. But it seems positive at this point.?

Stewart Krohn
?Karen, I don?t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist. But do you really believe these people at ARCOS? I mean this cable system worked perfectly for years, never even the slightest glitch and now in the space of just a little over one month, you have three cable breaks. Somebody is pulling a ?whap? somewhere.?

Karen Bevans
?Well we have requested a meeting with New World Network and we were just waiting again for all services to be back to normal, both damages repaired, but before that could happen this occurred again. We are still waiting for that meeting and we will demand answers, we will demand specifics because we think we owe it to our customers to explain what?s going on. It?s new to us; it?s new to the people of Belize because since we have installed the fibre optic cable, we had very high quality reliable service until now. So we need some answers, we believe we owe it to our customers. In particular, people like banks, they are down, and they affect their customers as well. This weekend for example is a very high traffic weekend. We know people want money; they are getting paid this weekend. So we are in a very unfortunate situation and we will demand some answers from New World Network.?

Stewart Krohn
?Karen, you are a young woman in a high profile, now very high pressure situation, has this taken a toll on you personally??

Karen Bevans
?That?s a tough question. I think I feel more for the customers. At BTL we are very passionate about the customers and passionate about the things we do and when we get calls from them with the interruptions they are having and the interruptions they are having on their customers, we feel pretty emotional about it.?

Just after Bevans finished the interview we learned that internet service had been restored through the connection with Telmex. The traffic should be rerouted through ARCOS next week, assuming the Cancun repairs are completed by that time. In the meantime, some hard talk is expected between the ARCOS management and a whole lot of angry telecom executives in Central America and the Caribbean.

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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