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Apr 17, 2002

Intelco to B.T.L.: Let’s get it on

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Located at the junction of the Northern Highway and Burrell Boom Road, it is the most visible symbol yet that come January first, Belize will enter a new era in telecommunications. Janelle Chanona has the story.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

This afternoon, representatives of International Telecommunications Ltd, Intelco, officially inaugurated the nation’s tallest freestanding structure. At three hundred and thirty feet high, the tower is to play an integral role in wireless telecommunication services to be provided by the company.

Ivan Tesucum, Director of Operations, Intelco

“The wireless transmittals means that there will not be any need for wires being put all over the place, the trenching, the digging up of the streets. Rather we will be transmitting via microwave links in between all the towers. And in that case, everyone who is living around those areas and who are being covered by the towers, will be able to get service whether it be wireless Internet, voice cellular, as was mentioned today that we will also be offering.”

Thirty-nine towers are to be constructed countrywide and according to Intelco’s chairman, are to be symbols of the company’s high hopes for the future.

Glenn Godfrey, Chairman, Intelco

“This is the manifestation of Intelco’s dream. It is also a manifestation of the dream of perhaps the real hero of this piece, because the real hero of this piece is the Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister who had the vision of providing internet for schools, and when he couldn’t get it done one way, he found another way to do it.”

But that way was not without its risks. On Tuesday, the present monopoly service provider, B.T.L., was granted permission to argue before the Supreme Court that the contract between Intelco and G.O.B. is illegal. But if government was having second thoughts, they weren’t evident this afternoon.

Ralph Fonseca, Min. of Budget Planning

“You know you get leave in court for just about everything. It’s very unusual when the judge would not give you leave to test something in court, first of all. That is all that that means, that she has been allowed to argue her case in court, number one. Number two, she will lose.”

Janelle Chanona

“On what basis?”

Ralph Fonseca

“On the core principle that she’s apparently questioning, and that is that there is no minister in government that has the authority to go through or not go through a tender process.”

Janelle Chanona

“Legally government is allowed to issue any contract without tender?”

Ralph Fonseca

Of course, that occurs everyday.”

And it seems that every day, Intelco is equipping another Belizean school with high speed Internet access. This morning at St. Michael’s College Intelco CEO Juan McKenzie gave his rival some unsolicited advice.

Juan McKenzie, CEO, Intelco

“Let’s compete. I just invite B.T.L. to compete in the market. Let’s get out of the court and go to the people…go to the market and say this is what I’m willing to give you and this is what Intelco will give, and make the people make their choice. I believe Belizeans long time have the right to choice for service, and we are giving them this choice, a service and they will have to turn over. At the end of the day I’m sure that Belizeans will accept Intelco service because it will be a better service at a lower price.”

As for Government’s role in the competition, Budget Minister Ralph Fonseca maintains it will guarantee fairness to all.

Ralph Fonseca

“We assure you and the existing investors in telecommunications that when the competition begins on January first 2003, there will be a level playing field.”

Although Fonseca admits that Intelco will monopolise government’s telecommunication services, he says the deal was a good one for taxpayers.

Ralph Fonseca

“Services to government is ninety percent of whatever the prevailing rates are at that time by their competitors, so it’s always ten percent below what their competitors would have charged us. And that is based on the actual usage of the services, per minute, per whatever, depending on what services you’re using.”

Intelco’s service to consumers will not begin until January 2003, but from any height, it’s clear they’re eager to compete in the Belizean market. Reporting for News 5, I am Janelle Chanona.

BTL’s chairman, Michael Ashcroft, has maintained that the Intelco deal is the result of a special relationship between its chairman, Glenn Godfrey, and his former colleagues in the Government of Belize. Godfrey was a representative and minister of government in the previous PUP administration.

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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