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Nov 26, 2009

Smart seeking legal options as Telemedia removes equipment

Story PictureInternational services to the ninety thousand subscribers of Smart continues interrupted. Last Friday, Telemedia removed Smart’s access to the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1); a fiber optic submarine communications cable that links the Americas and the Caribbean. Smart sought another means of achieving international calls and on Sunday it changed its antenna that is located on Telemedia’s compound on St. Thomas Street in Belize City. But Telemedia wrote a letter to Smart on Wednesday informing the company that it had removed the new antenna because adequate notice wasn’t given for access to its property. That wasn’t the only blow Telemedia issued to Smart. Telemedia also removed Smart’s equipment from two of the nineteen towers that both companies share. By removing the technical equipment from the Benny’s and Ladyville towers, Smart’s service between Belize City and Ladyville has gone from palpitating to almost comatose. Tonight Smart is saying it will fight back in the courts. According to the Smart’s Chief Operations Officer, Ernesto Torres, the Public Utilities Commission isn’t doing enough to stop Telemedia from disrupting its services.

Ernesto Torres, Chief Operations Officer, Smart
“We got more concern the same Wednesday night when we got reports that the Ladyville base station and the Benny’s base station were not carrying traffic. So the technical people called their counterparts at Telemedia and we then found out that it appears that that A1 or the circuits that connect those two base stations to the switch had been interrupted as well. So we also advised Telemedia that there was no reason for them to do that because there is no way—we are assuming that perhaps they disconnected those two because they thought we could carry international traffic through those sites, which is not the case. So we demanded they reinstall the circuits that connect those two base stations because we now have no service in Ladyville and we have a degraded service running along the northern highway, up the highway and on to Ladyville.”

Jose Sanchez
“Do you think this is a move to completely shut down Smart?”

Ernesto Torres
“It certainly looks so from this side of the table and it is very disturbing because what it does is that it sort of stifles competition to begin with and it denies Belizeans the right to chose where they want to get their service from. Because if I’m in Ladyville and Smart doesn’t have any service in Ladyville then where else are you going to get the service from? We lease these circuits that connects these base stations from them because they have the infrastructure in those areas and that is what is alarming, that they can unilaterally remove those circuits without telling you well listen I’m going to remove them.”

Jose Sanchez
“Did they even give you a reason why they removed them?”

Ernesto Torres
“Nope.”

Jose Sanchez
“Does it alarm you that they can just remove you from all other sites?”

Ernesto Torres
“It’s very alarming. That’s why I believe the P.U.C. has to step in and deal with this matter.”

Jose Sanchez
“There is a section of the Telecommunications Act, I think section forty-two that says the dominant provider can’t or should not do any damage to a small provider. Can you clarify how that part of the Telecommunications Act weighs in on this situation?”

Ernesto Torres
“If you take the Benny’s site and the Ladyville site; those are two clear examples of that same provision in the act because what you are doing is denying the service to Speednet on those sites by means of the fact that you provide a circuit to it, you remove the circuit unilaterally. You affect then the service that Speednet is doing and equally important you affect the customers that Speednet has and uses those sites. So it’s a clear example of the dominant provider abusing its power in the market.”

Jose Sanchez
“Are you looking at a legal option?”

Ernesto Torres
“Yes, today we received a letter from the P.U.C. regarding the agreements and we will forward those to them, but we’ve sent that letter to the lawyers for review, legal counsel with regard to that and this matter will be part of it.”

Jose Sanchez
“Did the P.U.C. say if they felt the disconnection last week was legal or illegal?”

Ernesto Torres
“Well, if you recall they sent out a notice; I believe a letter that basically said we have looked at the situation. We want the parties to send the copies of the agreements among other things. They end the letter saying it is prudent for Telemedia—in the interest of fair play, in the interest of the customers of Speednet—it is prudent for Telemedia to restore the circuits. Right but that’s all the P.U.C. said. They did not mandate Telemedia to restore them. We are going to pursue this matter. It’s going to be pursued on a legal basis and its going to be pursued in the public domain and certainly we will engage the P.U.C. but at this point in time the P.U.C. has to come and act one way or the other.”

Torres says that Smart customers should also make their views heard by calling the P.U.C. or visiting Smart’s showroom and signing a petition requesting the P.U.C. to intervene and mandate B.T.L. to restore the connections at Benny’s and in Ladyville.


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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