Am. Samoa Task Force Recommends New Fiber Optic Cable

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Existing telecom lifeline has less than 10-years of life left

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 27, 2015) – American Samoa’s Economic Development Implementation Plan (EDIP) task force has emphasized the need for American Samoa to seek out another undersea fiber optic cable because the current one has less than ten years left in its life-span.

The task force’s final EDIP report was distributed to lawmakers last week for their review and approval before being submitted to the U.S. Department of Interior as American Samoa’s guide to economic development and possible projects for funding.

While the final version of the EDIP is similar to the final draft released last June by the Commerce Department, there are some areas of economic development with more information included, such as in the area of "TeleCommunications" that puts emphasis on fiber optic cable.

According to the EDIP, the territory’s current telecommunications infrastructure includes major fiber-optic telecommunications systems, composed of an existing and emergent O3b satellite network.

However, it raises concerns about the "aging and high cost" of the American Samoa Hawai’i Cable (ASH Cable), the current undersea fiber optic cable linking American Samoa to Hawai’i, saying that the remaining ASH Cable lifespan is between six and eight years.

Thus, American Samoa must prepare to expand its "fiber-optic" connectivity, capability, and affordability to connect to the outside world, and therefore a replacement of undersea fiber-optic-cable and supplanting ASH cable must be considered, it says.

EDIP says there is a need to develop a stable platform for the ASTCA fiber optic cable, saying that an alternative undersea fiber-optic cable in addition to "O3B" is required to provide stability and redundancy to current platforms.

"This will be achieved by obtaining an alternative back-up fiber-optic cable," it says, and suggests that ASTCA secure a letter of intent with "Hawaiki" cable company for a spur to American Samoa, off the Havaiki main cable, running from Portland, Oregon to Australia.

INTER SAMOA CONNECTION

EDIP also calls for exploring the economic viability of an inter island undersea cable linkage between American Samoa and neighboring Samoa for increased e-commerce and improvement on communication redundancy.

The EDIP says American Samoa should take advantage of Samoa’s new undersea cable paid for by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, linking Samoa to the outside world. It also says that the territory is in an excellent position to fully exchange traffic, and level the playing field insofar as negotiated rates between two governments for the purpose of economic, social, and political development.

It recommends that ASTCA — on behalf of ASG— negotiate with the Samoa government to have a "new" cable between the two Samoas, as a government-to-government initiative, and, if successful, for ASTCA to conduct an undersea survey for the new cable, and negotiate the terms for cost sharing.

If the undersea survey indicates viability then, ASTCA, on behalf of ASG, should enter into negotiations with Samoa to acquire a 3rd undersea fiber-optic cable, as a joint initiative between the two Samoas, it says.

In his written State of the Territory Address, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said the undersea fiber optic cable is projected to be fully utilized in five to seven years at its current status, however, a proposal is being considered which would expand the life and capacity of the existing fiber optic cable by adding repeaters.

He confirmed in the SOTT address that there are other fiber optic cable proposals being reviewed, including the Samoa cable that is being financed by the World Bank and the Hawai’i cable connecting Australia to the United States — referring to the "Hawaiki".

TASK FORCE COMMENTS

The EDIP task force says it disseminated the draft to lead implementing agencies to take into consideration current ongoing projects, to leverage existing projects with recommended projects for funding and phase in realistic time tables, and to maximize joint agency partnerships and resources.

Additionally, the EDIP is divided into seven focus areas: Transportation Services and Infrastructure, New Business and Industry, Federal Government Constraints and Business Climate, Agriculture, Tourism, Fisheries, and Workforce Development.

"The EDIP is a living document and is prioritized as funding becomes available," according to the task force, which added that implementation of the EDIPAS will be led by a core Task Force subcommittee with staff housed in the Department of Commerce specifically dedicated to the EDIPAS implementation.

In his written address to the Fono, the governor said the EDIP has highlighted viable and doable economic projects which require implementation.

"The focus in 2015 is to secure venture capital to empower locals to participate in our economic development program as well as to attract foreign investors to focus on advancing our processing and manufacturing agenda as outlined in the EDIP," he said.

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