Monday, April 24, 2006

Trouble in the tropics: Belize telco accused of blocking VoIP

For the last few months, VoIP users in Belize have been up in arms at what they perceive to be an organized effort by Belize Telecommunications Limited to block outgoing calls over Vonage, Skype and other Internet phone service providers.

Online forums have bristled with frustrated posts. The Vonage Forum has a busy thread on the subject. And last Friday, the Belize Free Internet Consortium posted this:

Have you been a regular user of Skype, Vonage, SpeakEasy, VerizonSpeak and others? Noticed that lately you've been experiencing trouble connecting and utilizing these services? Silent moments, repeated sounds, buzzes?Here's the good news: it's almost certainly fixable. The bad news? WE MUST lobby the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to fix it.VoIP customers around the world are discovering that their calls cannot be connected because telecom companies (like BTL) are blocking the movement of such traffic across the net.

It turns out that BTL has jammed the signal on VoIP (voice over internet protocol). They have gone as far as jamming chat and messenger programs like GoogleTalk, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Voice and other. What this means, simply, is that BTL is mandating what you should and should not do with your internet connection.

This continues to create a monopoly which BTL should no longer have and forces us to continue to pay exorbitant prices per minute for international calls. It is unwarranted for Belizeans to be held hostage by one company who already makes a substantial profit with fixed lines, cellular services, Internet fee and various other services.

The BTIA would like your assistance in surveying the effects of BTL's actions on providing your products and services. Once we have ascertained the extent of effect, we will forward an official position to the PUC.

Well, on Wednesday, the Belize PUC will hold a hearing on the matter. Expect to hear from some very influential people, such as Andrew Godoy, director of the Belize Tourism Industry Association. “The Board is appalled by the actions of BTL,” Godoy tells the San Pedro, Belize Sun. "We have heard from many of our constituents and this is negatively impacting their business."


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