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Jun 4, 1999

BTL lowers rates for free zone

Long suffering customers in the Corozal Free Zone today received some welcome relief as BTL officially inaugurated a project to upgrade telecommunications in the commercial enclave at the Santa Elena Border. Previously the zone’s 31 customers relied on a fixed cellular arrangement, which was both cumbersome and expensive. The new system, relying on underground fibre optic lines, is anything but. It has the capacity to serve 110 customers with all the advanced telephone and Internet features available to customers elsewhere in Belize. Callers in the Free Zone have also been blessed with international rates 20 to 30 percent lower than those charged to the rest of us: a call to the states for example is only two dollars per minute, Europe three fifty and Asia four dollars. When asked the reason for the discounted rates a BTL spokesman explained it was a strategic move by the company, to keep in step with the liberalized operating conditions prevailing in free zone. It was also explained that a competing telecom provider had announced its plans to offer service in the zone and the lower rates are a bid by BTL to meet that competition. Elsewhere in the country BTL’s monopoly contract runs until 2002. While the ruling party’s manifesto has pledged to establish a commission to regulate utility rates such a body has yet to make its appearance.

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