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Batelco's New Lower Rates Made Permanent
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Posted by:Apr 8th 2005, 12:18:55 pm
Fig Tree News Team"Intra-island calls are now set at 18 cents/minute, with calls to the U.S. now 49 cents/minute."

PUC issues "formal" approval for BTC's interim long distance rates

By TAMARA McKENZIE,Guardian Staff Reporter

The Public Utilities Commission has "formally" approved the interim long distance rates which The Bahamas Telecommunications Company applied for on Jan. 20. The approval effectively provides savings up to 70 per cent on long distance calls within The Bahamas and around the world. The announcement was made on Thursday by President and CEO of BTC, Michael Symonette.

Last October, BTC announced that its long distance calling rates had been slashed by as much as 70 per cent for 120 days until Feb. 3, 2005, however these promotional rates still remain in effect. Before the switch, customers making calls to the Family Islands were billed 40 cents per minute, but with a 55 per cent reduction, customers are now paying 18 cents per minute. Calls to the U.S. which were 99 cents a minute and 80 cents for each additional minute, were lowered to 49 cents per minute. Mr Symonette indicated in previous interviews that the high rates were a result of revenue from international calls, which was used to subsidise BTC's local service.

However, the promotional move by BTC did not sit well with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) which felt that because BTC was the dominant carrier in The Bahamas, its prices were subject to regulation by the PUC, and any proposed tariff changes would have to be approved by the telecom regulator. It was also highlighted that BTC had been in talks with carriers it partners with in the United States and other countries, and concerns were expressed that the rates of BTC were too high.

While a guest on a local talk show in October, Mr Symonette admitted that the PUC had "some" difficulty with BTC going forth with its promotion. He added, however, that because its promotion was only temporary, it did not require approval from the PUC. He also pointed out that the company had the "full weight" of the law as it is backed by the Telecommunications Act and its license. He said when permanent rate proposals were implemented, they would be placed before the PUC for approval.

And, on Thursday, Mr Symonette announced that although formal approval has been issued by the PUC for the interim long distance rates, BTC is still actively pursuing the rate-rebalancing proposal submitted. He said although the PUC has indicated that it will take some time to consider its proposal, BTC's customers will not be affected during the deliberation period.

"Customers can be assured that the considerably reduced rates they have been enjoying since Oct. 7, 2004 will remain in effect until the final decision on the new rates is made, hence, the company has no intention of reverting to any previous rates.

"Once the PUC makes its final decision, BTC fully expects that any approved long distance rate will be even more competitive," Mr Symonette said

A statement released from BTC also outlined that the company is committed to providing Bahamian consumers with telecommunication services at globally competitive prices, and its long distance rate reduction is just one example of the many changes customers can expect to benefit from as the company continues with its reorganising and reengineering efforts.

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