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Phone and Internet Service in the Bahamas: Improving Thanks to Partial Deregulation and Cable Bahamas

For the past few decades, the telecommunications services in The Bahamas have been typically a few steps behind, and one hundred steps more expensive, compared to similar services in the U.S. and Canada. This is due to the Bahamas government’s monopoly and regulation of the telephone communications sector, which effectively granted a monopoly to the government owned and controlled BaTelCo (Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation).

You can purchase a Batelco phone card with terrible rates at all BaTelCo locations (In 2004, when we attempted to use a Batelco pay phone outside the Batelco office in Harbour Island it gave a dead signal). BaTelCo has roaming agreements with a few companies (such as Cingular). As of 2004, roaming rates are an outrageous $3.00 per day and 99¢ per minute, and are billed through your home carrier (Link: Rate comparison between Batelco and a popular U.S. phone company).

In the late 1990’s, BaTelCo introduced a fourth-rate (well maybe fifth rate), ultra-slow, and over-priced Internet product to The Islands Of The Bahamas, which they christened BaTelNet (users who suffered on it called it Batel-slow, Batel-not online, !!!@#$!, etc.) When we started this guide we would pay over a few hundred dollars a month for a internet phone modem service which we were charge for by the minute, and which would often not work for days/weeks, while Americans would pay under $20 a month for unlimited service.

As the original monopoly Internet provider in The Islands Of The Bahamas, BaTelCo claimed to offer features to its customers, such as 24-hour technical support (in February of 2005, we talked with a technical support representative for over half an hour who helped us with nothing, and was so useless, we just put the down the phone because of his rudeness; in fairness to Batelco we called back and got hold of a second representative who was more friendly and solved the problem in two minutes), local-access dialing, 28.8k modems (which did not work at that speed–when they worked), and monopoly-based pricing.

Thankfully, with the introduction of broadband competitors, like Cable Bahamas (a godsend), the situation has improved drastically for Internet users. Also many Bahamians on Cable Bahamas are switching their international phone calling to VOIP services like Vonage which are 100 times cheaper than the Batelco monopoly service (Link: Rate comparison between Batelco and a popular U.S. phone company). If you subscribe to DSL with Batelco, you are not permitted to use low cost VOIP services on your broadband connection, though word “on the street” is that many Batelco DSL subscribers do (and some even had them installed by Batelco employees).