New Zealand and Pacific Island governments have agreed to work to ensure a new submarine cable is laid across the Pacific, after meeting in Auckland.
The intervention makes it more likely that one of the two existing plans to lay a new cable to and from New Zealand will succeed, according to a Cook Islands minister.
Internet access in the Pacific is expensive and limited. For example, the Cook Islands relies entirely on expensive satellite communications to carry phone calls and internet traffic, Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown said.
A “standard” broadband plan in the Cook Islands costing $49 a month comes with a meagre 6 gigabyte data cap – and with 100 millisecond lag, business is stifled and video-gaming has yet to take off.
Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) met with delegations from the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and French Polynesia on Thursday to discuss improving internet connectivity in the region.
The ministry has since issued a communique saying officials would present leaders with “solutions for a submarine cable and satellite infrastructure” to improve communications for the islands by August.
New Zealand would “facilitate the planning and development phases of the project”, it said.
Auckland-based Hawaiki hopes to build a $500 million cable linking Australia and New Zealand to the United States via several Pacific Islands, but has had a series of disappointments securing the last remaining $150m it requires.
Another firm, Spain’s Bluesky, aims to build a cable from New Zealand as far as Hawaii, also connecting other islands en route – including American Samoa where it has a subsidiary business.
Brown said representatives from private companies Hawaiki Cable and Bluesky attended the Auckland meeting and it seemed they had the most viable options to improve internet access in the region.
This is good for such a cable will not just link up some Pacific countries, but provide a second cable between NZ and the US.