When researching our move to Belize, one of our main priorities was good internet service, but we were shocked to see the cost of internet. Since we run 2 internet businesses, always having a good, available internet connection is not only convenient, it’s near mandatory. Looking at the numbers, I didn’t believe them.
“Certainly, people don’t pay these rates which seem like highway robbery, right?” After investigation and emailing back and forth with people that live in Belize, we were disappointed to find out that the numbers were correct and that yes, we will pay outrageous rates for slow internet service. Take a look:
Current costs of internet in Belize per month
- 128 K $49 bz ($25 US) 128K is seriously laughable.
- 256 K $100 bz ($50 US) Still laughable
- 512 K $179 bz ($90 US) Laughable, but workable for most people.
- 1 MB $300 bz ($150 US) Ouch.
- 2 MB $500 bz ($250 US) Friends in the US pay $10/month for 2MB internet.
- 4 MB $850 bz ($425 US) Now I’m being robbed…$425 per month for 4 MB!
Internet access in Belize is controlled by a quasi-governmental entity- Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL). Although some satellite providers exist, BTL has a practical monopoly on internet access. They actually did have a legal monopoly until a few years ago. Some other companies are trying to compete but are having a tough time.
In September of this year, the Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize stated that BTL will have “both greater Internet access and a lower price to Belizeans“. That sounded great, but it was the addition of 128K internet (listed above). Are you serious? I’m not sure what you can do with 128K internet, but I don’t have the time to wait watching the loading bar to find out! Bandwidth is the cheapest ingredient in the mix. BTL could go from 128kps to 8mbps and the hit to their bottom line would be pennies per subscriber.
Monopolies are stunting Belize’s growth
Since 1997 there have been many reports stating that Belize has electricity rates that are among the highest in Central America. Rates for telephone and interservices are higher in Belize than in any other Central American country. High utility rates are among the obstacles of doing business in Belize. Source When we lived in Costa Rica we paid $40 US for 2 MB Internet that was very reliable. In Belize, that same service is $250.
VOIP Blocked in Belize
Not only are internet rates outrageous in Belize, but BTL also blocks the use of VOIP, including Skype. The only way to utilize VOIP features in Belize is to work around them using a VPN.
We can chat through Skype, but we cannot make calls with it unless we are on the VPN.
On November 23, 2011 Prime Minister Hon. Dean Barrow, addressed a business forum regarding VOIP.
“There is a continuum that we are looking at and that continuum will inevitably include VOIP. It is just a matter of timing and that company is looking anxiously at the whole equation to see when would be the optimum moment at which it can introduce VOIP. … The point is that it is complex but let me end with respect to that particular issue by repeating that VOIP is coming. To some extent—if I can be a little bit facetious—soon as you hear the announcement of the coming of VOIP, expect the follow day the announcement of the date of the general elections.” Source
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! Did you understand any of that? Basically, he’s worried BTL will lose revenue. (Cue shaking my finger saying “Bad, self-serving government”)
How it effects us
For the traveling tourist or someone not looking to live in Belize full time, this isn’t much of an issue, it’s merely an inconvenience. There are plenty of restaurants and hotels that offer free wi-fi (usually a slow connection). But, for the potential ex-pat that wants or needs internet, these rates add a significant amount to monthly expenses and is something that should be considered.
Belize is still a beautiful country to live in, but its internet speed are as ancient as its Mayan ruins.
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