Am. Samoa Party To Major Pacific Telecom Cable Projects

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Local broadband already being implemented by telecom authority

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 21, 2014) - American Samoa is a party to telecommunication discussions about two proposed regional under sea fiber optic cables through its $9 million minority share with the American Samoa Hawai'i Cable LLC (ASH-Cable), says Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who also shared that the government is reviewing its involvement in the ASH-Cable venture.

Lolo made the revelation during his address to the Fono last Monday when he was speaking on the Territory's telecommunication development and infrastructure.

According to the governor, there are current developments in the Pacific for new submarine cables to be laid, inclusive of the World Bank funded cable for Samoa.

"It appears that the preference by the World Bank is to develop the cable project in Samoa through the establishment of a public-private consortium to manage and administer this cable," he said.

Additionally, there is also a second serious cable option being considered at this point, connecting Australia and the United States with available tie-ins by any interested country.

"The advantage of this option is the amount of required investment which is predicated on the number of countries opting to hook up to the main cable trunk, he said.

"The last option is scheduled for implementation this year. We are very much a party in all of the cable discussions through our one-third ownership of the ASH Cable," he said, and noted the American Samoa government (ASG) is currently reviewing its ownership in ASH-Cable and the options available to ASG.

(The majority share of ASH-Cable is owned by Florida based eLandia International, whose operations in the territory include Bluesky Communication and Bluesky Moana TV.)

Lolo says it's the belief of the administration that this type of service - fiber optic cable - is best left to the private sector; however, the government needs to review all its options before making any decision. He didn't elaborate on the "options."

As for the ASG owned American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority (ASTCA), Lolo says the authority has begun the implementation of its Broadband Linking the American Samoa Territory (BLAST) project along with its 03b satellite connectivity, which will certainly improve connectivity with the outside world.

ASTCA has contracted Wisconsin based Michels Corporation to lay the cable for the project. Project work began this month, and is expected to be completed in 15 months time.

Lolo told lawmakers it's envisioned the BLAST system will be operational by the end of the year, or early in 2015, and the same expected completion date is set for the 03b connectivity.

"The projects will substantially improve the internet speed and certainly improve our ability to expand the use of telemedicine, which will greatly expand the diagnostic ability of LBJ Medical Center physicians. The potential for on-line education and distance learning will also be greatly improved," he said.

ASTCA signed in January last year an agreement with O3b Networks to provide up to 1.2Gbps of future broadband connectivity for Internet and other services for American Samoa. O3b took over control and operation of the satellites from their manufacturer, Thales Alenia Space, last August.

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