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Why BTL Charge so much for Internet Use

 recent survey of the Caribbean shows that internet speeds in Belize are among the slowest and most expensive.

First, Belize was one of only three countries still offering speeds of less than one meg; in Belize the lowest speed that you can purchase is 128k – only Dominica is lower with 64k.

Second, the price for 256k in Belize – 51 US dollars monthly would buy you 1 Megs in Anguilla. 1 Meg is about 300% faster than 256K.

Third, the maximum speed available in Belize is four megs – when in many other territories it is eight or nine megs. And the survey shows that in Belize, you’ll pay the second most in the region, 436 US dollars for those four megs – when you can get twice that, 8 megs in the Bahamas for just 70 US dollars.

The survey has been picking up a lot of traction and angry comments on FACEBOOK, and we today asked a top BTL executive why Belize is at the highest price point, for the lowest speed:

Jules Vasquez
“Belize’s prices are among the highest, and the bandwidth is among the lowest; why is this?”

Dr. Dionne Miranda – Customer Services Manager, BTL
“To be honest with you, Jules, the demand for higher speeds has been really great. I want you to understand that Belize has different demands based on the fact that some of those countries are highly industrial and service-oriented countries. They have multi-national cooperations, and therefore their needs are different from the Belizean public’s needs. So, we’re not going to respond if our public isn’t asking for larger bandwidth, if that is not our particular bandwidth. We are a very service-oriented, tourism-oriented country, in fact, that is one of the things that is very necessary for us to understand that demand drives up supply, and then, it provides cost elasticity, where we actually lower costs. Just to give you the example of Jamaica, for instance, a 1-megabit in Jamaica is $27 US dollars. They are 2/3 the size of Belize, yet they have 10 times the population. Now, when you look at us, we’re offering that service for 3 times the cost to a third larger the size, and only 1/10 of that population. So, it is very difficult for us to say that we can have prices that are equal to that of a thriving economy with a large population. Now, let’s look at Barbados. Barbados is 4 to 5 miles wide, and when they set up infrastructure to offer service, they have 32 to 40 people in one apartment building that can covered. For me to give service to 32 people for internet, it’s the whole of Port Loyola, for instance, that would need to be covered up to make me get 32 customers. At the end of the day, again, demand drives up my ability to supply, based one what people want.”

Jules Vasquez
“How would you respond to the criticizm that the reason the demand isn’t there is because the supply is so prohibitively priced? You all have made internet so expensive that people with very limited disposable income can’t afford it.”

Dr. Dionne Miranda
“Can I say that this is an interesting statistic to bring up? But, you can’t use DSL or broadband, on which you have devices, and the device penetration is very low, according.”

Jules Vasquez
“A device, you mean a computer?”

Dr. Dionne Miranda
“A computer, IPad, or something else – I can’t provide service to the people who have the vehicle to drive on my highway. So, if you were able to extrapolate and give me the data that says that the devices are available, then I can see where the demand is. But even right now, we are provide netbooks at a very subsidized cost, we are 128k internet so that lower cost provision is available, and still the take-up isn’t being seen there because it is a cost prohibition.”

Jules Vasquez
“If you cost the thing cheaper, people will start investing in computers, and that will grow the use of internet. Is BTL opposed to this model?”

Dr. Dionne Miranda
“No, but that is a textbook model, Jules, and I’d like to add further credibility to it. When we offered 128k, we were surprised to find that people downgraded from 256k and 512k. So rather than -“.

Jules Vasquez
“But that is a price deterent.”

Dr. Dionne Miranda
“Exactly, so rather than gaining new customers, people actually thought that, no, they don’t need the internet at that level. There are a few -“

Jules Vasquez
“People thought that they couldn’t afford it at that level.”

Dr. Dionne Miranda
“But I am telling you that we are revising rates, so we are doing that, and that is very important, but at the end of the day, this is a company that has to remain profitable as well. We can’t sell for less than we are making.”

Jules Vasquez
“Would you say that the internet in Belize is prohibitively priced?”

Dr. Dionne Miranda
“I don’t believe that it is prohibitively priced. I do agree with you that I would love to see it get lower, and I do agree with you that we are working on that at BTL at this moment because we do see the need to open up and allow the growth of the economy. But, at the end of the day, it takes a clear study, and we’re not going to be reactive, but we’re actually going to look at what our public is looking for, and by having you here, we’re going to delve further and find out what we can do, but I can tell you that the plans are on the way. There will be rolliing out very soon.”




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