Palau Misses Chance For High Speed Internet Access Cable

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Legislature fails to approve project by deadline

By Jose Rodriguez T. Senase

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Aug. 3, 2015) – Palau’s chance of having faster Internet connectivity by hooking into the one-time SEA-US Cable Consortium appears bleak after the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) or the National Legislature failed to act on the Belau Submarine Cable Bill (BSCC Bill) before the July 31, 2015 deadline.

President Remengesau has stated in a letter to the Senate leadership that the measure needs to be approved by the aforementioned date for Palau to be able to take advantage of the opportunity.

"MicroPal and the Office of the President are working diligently on the issues with the ADB and SEA-US; however, internally we national leaders need to work closely and swiftly to ensure that we do not miss out on this opportunity that will no longer be available after the August 31 deadline," the President said in his July 24, 2015 letter to Senate President Camsek Chin and EPUI Committee Chairman Senator Joel Toribiong.

"ADB has indicated that in order to be in an advanced stage of loan approval and in a position to receive ADB Board approval for the loan in September, then the BSCC bill will need to be signed into law by the end of July 31," he added.

The President said prompt action would have made the opportunity viable.

"I acknowledge that this is a tall order for us national leaders, but I would like to remind you that even if this piece of legislation is signed into law by the end of this month, we national leaders will still need to pass another important piece of legislation during the course of August in order for the ultimate selection of the SEA-US option for any deposit payment to be made," Remengesau said.

"To summarize-by passing the BSCC Bill you will not be giving up any of your political power to further review the SEA-US option during the month of August," he added.

The President said that for Palau to secure a place with the SEA-US, the country and FSM will need to make a combined non-refundable deposit payment of $3.2 million, in which Palau will put $1.6 million or 50 percent of the amount. The deposit payment needs to be made by August 31, 2015.

SEA-US is set to imminently begin construction of a state of the art submarine fiber optic cable from Asia to the west coast of the United States (US) via Guam.

The cable between Asia and Guam will pass directly north of Palau and Yap and allow cost-effective and quality individual spurs to connect each territory to the main cable line.

SEA-US is made up of first rate telecommunications providers-namely Telin (Indonesia, Globe (Philippines), GTA (Guam), Hawaiian Telecom (USA) and RTI International (USA).

They have contracted NEC of Japan to build the entire cable system for SEA-US, which will be critical in ensuring best in class engineering and construction.

Remengesau said the MicroPal (Palau) team that he tasked with identifying an appropriate submarine fiber optic cable project has been working diligently with their FSM counterparts on evaluating the various options.

He said that after careful deliberation the MicroPal team has informed both President Christian of FSM and himself that the best option forward to connect Palau and Yap to Guam is with the SEA-US Cable Consortium.

According to the President, the MicroPal team has been working and negotiating with SEA-US since early April.

Remengesau said that recently they have been given firm cost information for the capital expenditure (CAPEX) for the SEA-US project and Palau would incur approximately $20 million in CAPEX for an all in price including water-based infrastructure, and land-based infrastructure, and even essential spare parts for future use which would reduce expenditures on such parts in the future while ensuring quick repairs to minimize service disruptions.

With lack of action from the Senate EPUI Committee chaired by Senator Joel Toribiong, it is most likely that Palau’s timetable to have a submarine cable connection for Internet connectivity will be moved to another time at a higher cost to the country and its people.

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