The internet in Belize is still the most expensive and among the slowest in the entire Caribbean region, according to a 2013 survey of Caribbean Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
However, Trinidad-born Internet strategist Bevil Wooding says Belize's Internet users should not rely on costly international data transit for online communications within the country. Instead, to facilitate growth of the local telecommunications sector, they should establish their own facility for local Internet traffic exchange.
“The absence of a local IXP compromises a country’s ability to truly harness the potential of the Internet as an engine for economic growth, job creation and social empowerment,” said Wooding, an international Internet expert and, Internet strategist with the US-based research firm Packet Clearing House (PCH).
Wooding, along with PCH Research Director, Bill Woodcock, will speaking on June 6 at a special forum for Internet stakeholders in the private and public sector being hosted by the Public Utilities Commission. The discussion will centre on the establishment of a facility known as an Internet Exchange Point or IXP in Belize. The IXP Forum is part of a plan by the PUC to bring together international and local stakeholders to find ways of improving the quality and prices of Internet services for Belizeans.
The primary role of an IXP is to keep local internet traffic within local the local networks. IXPs also allow Internet Services Providers (ISPs) to reduce the costs associated with exchanging traffic between their networks.
"For instance, if a BTL customer living in Orange Walk, decides to send an e-mail to a friend, a SpeedNet customer who lives in Belmopan, that email must journey as a data packets that must travel out of Belize, to a switching point in a foreign country, just to be returned to Belize,” said Wooding.
"Such routing comes at a high cost to local ISPs. It is inefficient, expensive and results in the unnecessary hemorrhage of local capital as local ISPs pay to send traffic out only to bring it back in to the country over costly international links," he added. He also cited the risk of local Internet traffic being subject to possible inspection in foreign countries.
In the Caribbean at present, only the British Virgin Islands, Haiti, Grenada, St Maarten, Curacao and Dominica have IXPs. In conjunction with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, PCH is currently assisting several other Caribbean countries, including Barbados, Jamaica and St Kitts and Nevis in establishing local IXPs. PCH is a non-profit organisation and the world’s leading implementer of IXPs.
The initiative is part of a larger campaign by the CTU to support ICT-driven development in the region.