By Submarine Cable News Feed

Togiola Tulafono, Governor of American Samoa, recently signed documents that will facilitate bringing the PacRimEast submarine fiber optic cable to American Samoa.

The project involves re-routing the decommissioned PacRimEast cable, which currently runs from New Zealand to Hawaii.

Alcatel-Lucent has been awarded the contract to re-route the cable. The company will grapple the cable about 100 miles offshore, cut it and bring it ashore at Fogagogo, on Pago Pago, American Samoa.

The governor and representatives from Alcatel-Lucent recently gave a technical presentation on the project to members of American Samoa's legislature, called the Fono. The presentation focused on the main tasks involved with the venture and covered several technical areas of the project including the actual tasks involved in redeploying the PacRimEast Cable to land in Pago Pago, the route the cable will take to reach the Territory's shores, and the many benefits that American Samoa may expect to see as a result of the cable project, according to a statement released by the Governor's office.

“The submarine fiber optic cable is the most significant economic development project in the last several decades,” Togiola said. “The sea of change that this project represents is absolutely tremendous.”

The Governor explained that American Samoa has, until now, been economically dependent on canneries “for as long as we can remember;” but with this new initiative, “we will move from a labor intensive manufacturing industry into a technology driven industry. This is where technical skills are required, and this is where the better paying jobs are.”

Togiola said that the people of American Samoa will have the best opportunity to make the most of this market within the region, and “we must take advantage of this amazing opportunity.”

The Governor described the fiber optic project as “a major priority” of this Administration. “The possibilities alone for distance health, learning, and business applications alone are impressive,” he said. “You add to that the increased capacity for establishing and growing technology-based businesses and government, and the possibilities are limitless!”

Local lawmakers were able to engage in a question and answer session with members of the technical team, following the presentation. The session turned into a facilitated discussion where Fono members were able to express their concerns over the project and voice their support and explore specific initiatives where their lawmaking powers may be useful to the project.

“I am very happy that the Fono members were available to review and discuss their issues and questions with our technical team,” the Governor said. “This project has been in the works for a little over two years, and now that the documents are signed, the goal of bringing fiber optic to the Territory is within view.”

He added, “I believe that we are on the cusp of a technology explosion in our islands because we have worked so hard on this project with our partners. And having the support of the Fono and the community in general is the key to carrying out the rest of this very important project.”

The vessel is expected to bring the cable to American Samoa later this year in November, and the work is expected to take 30 days or so. Depending on weather conditions, American Samoa should be connected to the cable during the first quarter of 2009.

The fiber optic cable will provide faster and better Internet connection, voice capability, and data transfer for various areas like tele-health and remote distance learning.

The parties involved in the Pac Rim cable project include the American Samoa Government, Telecom New Zealand, Merchant Capital (an investment and merchant banking company based in Alabama), and Elandia Incorporated (parent company of mobile phone operator Blue Sky Communications).

The government has already forked out US$6 million for the project — US$3 million came from the $20 million ASG Retirement Fund loan, and another US$3 million was from the U.S. Interior Department's FY 2008 Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) for ASG.