Completion Date For Repair Of Marshall Islands Internet Cable Pushed Back Again

Operations of government, businesses, individuals severely impacted by near complete outage

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 13, 2017) – Just days after it was announced last week that a submarine communications cable servicing the Marshall Islands and Pohnpei would be fixed by January 7, the date was delayed again — to January 18 — when the search for the location of the damaged section of the cable took longer than anticipated.

With the Marshall Islands in a state of nearly total Internet black out for lack of bandwidth from satellites, the National Telecommunications Authority or NTA moved earlier this week to buy additional bandwidth to ease the situation, though this is still less than 10 percent of the bandwidth the nation enjoys with the cable that was installed in 2009. This is the first time since installation that repairs have been needed.

NTA general manager Tommy Kijiner Jr. said Wednesday that the fiber optic cable repair has developed into a double repair operation. Those involved in the open-ocean repair work about 10 miles west of Kwajalein have now identified the location of the problem on the cable, while a second problem with the “armor” around the cable close to shore at the U.S. Army base at Kwajalein Atoll was also identified as needing repair.

“Two repair crews are currently at work,” said Kijiner. One is working on the ocean site, the other at Kwajalein.

“It looks promising for the cable to be back up by Jan. 18,” he added. Kijiner said the local telecom office receives daily updates on repair progress. Until last Sunday, the daily reports showed no repair progress, indicating they were still trying to locate the fault on the cable that has been pulled up from the ocean floor for inspection and repair work. “They have now located the fault,” he said. The aim now is to power up the cable next week Wednesday. “We could be back on by evening time (on January 18),” Kijiner said.

The College of the Marshall Islands announced this week that it has delayed the starting date for classes by one week — to Jan. 23 — because the ongoing Internet blackout would affect delivery of academic courses.

Most local businesses, government agencies and individuals have experienced difficulty in carrying out normal operations in the absence of the bandwidth provided by the cable, which went down for repairs on Dec. 28. After a week of Internet crisis for many local businesses and government agencies, a rotating system providing two-to-three hours of Internet access daily has stabilized many business and government operations.

The country’s second urban center, Ebeye Island, has seen Internet access cut off because the local bank’s bandwidth needs have used up virtually all communications availability for the island.

At the outset of the cable outage, from Dec. 28, local businesses found the credit card swipe machines didn’t work and they were cut off from email and web access for dealing with vendors. In the beginning, “everything just stopped,” said Eli Maravilla, general manager of K&K Island Pride Supermarket. “We’re managing now. We have an Internet window on a daily basis now.” He said the Internet is a “critical service” for businesses, and suggested that NTA should have done more to supply bandwidth to local customers even if it cost more. Other companies experienced various ongoing issues with respect to connecting with vendors and ordering.

Residential “DSL” Internet usage, with the exception of email in some instances, has been mostly off since the cable went down for repairs.

Though the cable is not likely to be back in action until January 18, some improvements will probably be evident over the next few days as additional satellite bandwidth becomes available, following the telecom’s purchase of additional feeds from Australian satellite providers.

“Once it is switched on, home DSL customers will have access to their email in the evenings,” said Kijiner. “It will be 128 Kbps, faster than dial up but still slow. But it will be enough to access email sites.”

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For most probable reason is being pulled by ships of any kind that dropped off its anchor or net when fishing around the vicinity. The satellites that monitor the vessels could pick up certain fishing boats or ships around that area prior and after the damage was noticed. So, my best bet is that it was pulled by ship until the cable was rupture and perhaps snaps to some extend which damages the inner fibers. Exact time of incidence could be link to those ships around the area and that time. For some other speculations, other submarines can also drag the cable where it is hanging between mounts. Contact if they can help and bring those who are responsible to pay the cost of repair and all associated costs to the customers as well. Those who are subscribed for Netflix or any other online subscription programs are also affected. I am waiting for my compensation as well.

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