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Mar 15, 2012

Deadline for registering of cell phones extended by a couple weeks

At both telephone companies today, customers lined up for hours in a mad rush to register prepaid cellular phones and avoid disconnection.  The registration started last October after the Telecommunications Act was amended and the subsequent passage of a Statutory Instrument as a means to fight crime.  The deadline was initially announced for today but as it turns out, you still have a few more weeks until April twelfth to register your number. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Across Belize City today thousands of customers poured into the offices of BTL and Smart, forming endless queues in a final effort to get their cellular numbers registered.  The process succeeds a mandate from the Ministry of Police in September 2011 to have all mobile handsets listed in the companies’ records.  That order, as a matter of fact, is not reflected in the Telecommunications Act; nonetheless, both service providers are complying with the directive.

Ian Courtenay

Ian Courtenay, Public Relations Manager, Smart

“It is a security measure that the government is doing and so what they really want is to get as many people who have handsets out there registered, you know, for the safety of the customer as well as in the event of any activity they can be tied to a cell phone if it is used in any criminal activity.”

While the idea seems theoretically sound the Interception of Communication Act, under which the cataloguing of all cell phone numbers falls, has been panned by attorneys who argue that the law contains no provision for the destruction of recordings whether they are used or not.  Registration, says Anjali Vasquez, has its upside.

Anjali Vasquez

Anjali Vasquez, Public Relations Manager, Telemedia

“There are lots of benefits to registering.  It’s a good thing to own your property and in this case you are owning your number.  So we are working as much as we can to ensure that everyone gets registered and I’m sure that if people constantly come in and register we’ll keep on going until we’re done.”

Along with listing all numbers is an apprehension that the database being compiled can be used for extraneous purposes.  Less than two weeks ago, during the height of the campaign fever, blast texts, as well as automated voice messages were being sent digitally to the electorate.  In several instances pledges were being read by Prime Minister Barrow and PUP Leader Francis Fonseca and in another a text message encouraged voters to choose Lake Independence Standard Bearer Martin Galvez.

According to Vasquez, they too were receiving those calls and messages.

Anjali Vasquez

“We also were receiving those phone calls.  They were actually coming into our call centers as well from a number that was not a B.T.L. or Digicel number and we investigated that.  It’s something called robo-calling and what people do is they send out an automatic recording and in this case asking people to vote in a certain direction and B.T.L. prides itself in confidentiality.  We would never release a listing or sell a listing.  So however these people got their listings is really, I guess they were creative enough.”

Smart, on the other hand, has also distanced itself from the notion of furnishing its database to any political party.

Ian Courtenay

“Some of our customers came in and sent messages in complaining that they have been approached via text message to vote and so on.  Smart has a policy where its information is not sold to any entity whatsoever.  We do not give out our listings to anyone.  The Public Utilities Commission, of course, can get access to that and other authorities by way of a court order or something like that.”

Back in the snaking lines customers stood, some sat for hours, waiting for their numbers to be called in order to continue the registration process.  It’s a last-minute rush reminiscent of the hype created by the de-tinting of windshields and windows in light of the passage of legislation to criminalize dark tints in June of last year.  That too was an attempt by the Barrow Administration to address the issue of crime and violence.  While that law remains to be fully enforced, only time will tell whether the registration of cell phone numbers will aid in that fight. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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3 Responses for “Deadline for registering of cell phones extended by a couple weeks”

  1. Eye In The Sky says:

    Ha ha, you just got shyned again Belize.

  2. L.C. says:

    Aside from the myriad of privacy issues being raised, (read as “you’re being spied on”), this will do absolutely nothing to fight crime. In fact, I’d dare to say that it will only PROMOTE crime.

    Example: “Oh, my phone is registered. I can’t say anything on the line that might be construed as criminal. Oh well.. I’ll just rob this girl of her phone, so that I can do my criminal activity.”

    Now, *2* crimes have been committed.

    As for the ‘benefits’ of registering that Ms. Vasquez was talking about? She still hasn’t said what they are… ” There are lots of benefits to registering… In this case you own your number.” I shouldn’t have to register a phone to own the number. So long as I pay the bill, or in this case, keep credit on the device, the number is mine. Unless BTL and Smart plan to bully people and take away their numbers even if they pay their bill…

    In any case, good luck with this.

  3. now i see says:

    L.C., you sound very mad about your privasidad let me ask you something are you a drug dealer? Or are you cheating your better than nothing in spanish you say your peor es nada. One of the two. I think is a very good idea as long they use it right.if they take your cell all you have to do is call b.t.l. Block the number. Make a police report they check the last calls and sms. You pay $22.00. And you get your number back.And the person that took your cell? Hopefully gets shot at the corner. And the story goes on and on.I forgoth to tell you you get your credit back.

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