Internet TV one of the benefits of the BLAST project
American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority’s BLAST project will not only provide faster local internet speed but it will also feature new internet television programming through IPTV, and residents are being encouraged to sign up now as the cable line is being laid underground, beginning in the Bay Area, says ASTCA chief executive officer Moefa’auo Bill Emmsley.
The $91 million BLAST project — Broadband Linking the American Samoa Territory — is funded with $81 million in grant money and $10 million in loans through stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.
ASTCA said in 2012 the project “will deliver ultra-high-speed data, next-generation voice services, and new internet protocol television (IPTV) services across the islands.”
At last Friday’s joint news conference to announce the official launching of NBC television network programs airing on KVZK Ch: 5, Moefa’auo shared with reporters that the ASTCA fiber optic network — the BLAST project — is currently being put in place and ASTCA will also implement and institute its own TV programs. (See separate story on NBC launch).
Asked by the media if this means ASTCA will have its own television service, Moefa’auo explained ASTCA “will have its own IPTV — which is essentially its own TV programs, and this is where were are looking at working closely with KVZK in the future.”
Moefa’auo said current cable lines being laid underground — starting in the Bay Area — will extend to every business, home and institution in the territory and “that is part of the business plan that ASTCA has put forward.”
He said, “The cable line that we’re pulling to the home, will basically bring three functions: telephone, internet and IPTV, or TV programing.” He explained further that installation of the line to the home “will be free, the first time around.”
“So we would like to take this opportunity, to ask the public — if you don’t have a telephone [land] line, please do so now, and if you once had a [land] line, and owe ASTCA some money, clear your balance and reinstall your line, so that when the verification process comes in, they will install that fiber to your home for free,” he stated.
“But if the verification and installation team passes that serving area, and they have to come back and reinstall your line, then there will be a cost. It behooves everyone at this point in time to take advantage of that [free installation],” he pointed out.
He also said the project “in its totality” will not be completed until September next year; but the plan is that as soon as a “certain serving area” has completed installation and everything else in place, that area will be put into service.
“We don’t have to wait until the entire project is actually completed before it comes on line. So currently, we’re beginning in the Bay Area — certain sections of the Bay Area — and working our way towards Tafuna and the rest of the island including the Manu’a [Island group],” Moefa’auo said.
Asked why ASTCA started in the Bay Area, instead of Tafuna where there are many more businesses and residents — and the Tualauta county, the most populous county in the territory (which includes Tafuna) — Moefa’auo explained the original thought behind it was “because our main switching station is in Fagatogo, we wanted to test run that area first.”
“Obviously, the population is much greater in the Tualauta side... but we’re cautious in approaching this, because we want to make sure, that if something happens — technically — only very few people are effected,” the ASTCA CEO said. “If we choose to start with a larger population, and some... glitches occur, then obviously, masses of people will be out of service for an extended period of time. So that’s the rationale behind it.”
Responding to other media questions, he confirmed this project as well as ASTCA contractor Michels Corporation, which is laying the cable line, means more jobs for local residents.
Additionally, “our internet speed will be considerably faster and the capacity for that will also increase as well” through the BLAST Project.
However, he quickly issued a cautionary note, saying there are “two parts to this whole thing: the inter frame work, or the network, is separate from going out of the country and we’re working right now with with several other cable companies to hook up an additional cable just for redundancy purposes.”
Asked about ASTCA looking at linking up with the new undersea fiber optic cable projects being planned in the region, Moefa’auo said, there are actually “several cables being entertained at this point and time, but ASTCA is taking the lead in looking at all those alternatives. And if the price is right, we’ll certainly engage [in discussions].”
In January last year, ASTCA signed an agreement with O3b Networks to provide up to 1.2Gbps of future broadband connectivity for Internet and other services for American Samoa. O3b took over control and operation of the satellites from their manufacturer, Thales Alenia Space, in August last year.
Asked for an update on this project during last Friday’s press conference, Moefa’auo said the project is going well and “we’re looking at putting a section of [the 03b] in service in March this year.”
“We were supposed to be online already but as a result of the delay in launching four more satellites, we also have to push back our schedule,” he pointed out and noted the O3b satellite will also be the backup for the BLAST cable lines.
“It’s a new satellite constellation that’s being marketed as ‘fiber like speed’. The current rate right now is 20 milliseconds — both upload and download — so that will serve as a back up in case our fiber has any difficulties,” he said.